Nobody announces a new dirty, hairy kind of anti-hero

Movie review: Nobody

Bob Odenkirk brings all of his beleaguered Everyman capital to an action movie that grants catharsis by throwing haymakers at a cruel, chaotic world

Nobody

4/5

Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, RZA, Alexey Serebryakov, Christopher Lloyd

Directed by: Ilya Naishuller

Written by: Derek Kolstad

Running time:

Rating: Restricted

Opening March 28, 2021

By Katherine Monk

It’s a wish-fulfillment fantasy on steroids. And acid. But if that seems murky, imagine Saul Goodman as John Wick in the grand gatling gun finale of Breaking Bad. Violent, graphic and unapologetically obsessed with a deep desire for bloody justice, Nobody serves up a bubbly tonic tailor-made for this moment in time.

Let’s face it, after months of pandemic restrictions and walking about the world with half-masked faces, we’re all getting a little itchy under the collar, waiting for a moment when we can unmask, unleash and purge the inner demons camped out in our collective consciousness. Ilya Naishuller’s Nobody delivers the primal scream we need because it doesn’t really hold back. More importantly, the central figure isn’t a GQ cover boy, dressed in black Boss clothing, toting an exotic firearm under his musky armpit.

Indeed, our hero is the latest incarnation of Bob Odenkirk — beloved fuck up Jimmy McGill from Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad — playing an Everyman named Hutch Mansell. Outfitted in beige Dockers and Kirkland polos, Hutch goes about his dull day-to-day without a single whimper — even though his wife (Connie Nielsen) erected a wall of pillows between them in bed and his boss treats him like a bozo. Even his kids think he’s a borderline loser, as evidenced by his son’s choice of essay subject. The kid selects his uncle for an assignment on veterans instead of Hutch, who also served, but as he describes it: “only as an auditor.”

So Hutch seems like just another a middle-aged man chained to a Costco shopping cart on weekends — until his family is the victim of an amateur home invasion. Hutch has a chance to take a golf club to the gun-toting perpetrator’s cranium, but he lets it go — fearing for his family’s safety.

He makes the right call, all things considered, but his friends, family and neighbours think he choked because deep down, he’s chicken. Before long, his brother-in-law is giving him an unwanted firearm and telling him to man-up. The metaphorical castration continues for a few more scenes, and much to the relief of the viewer, Hutch doesn’t get too fazed by the demeaning mind games. He just takes a deep breath and gets back on the bus to his nine-to-five — like a real grown-up instead of a comic book vigilante.

Then, a bunch of thugs end up on his metro bus and harass a young woman trying to get home. Hutch sits back, watches the coked-up gangsters drool before they pounce on their prey, and finally makes a decision about what to do. He gets up, tells the driver to disembark, and announces how he’s going to “fuck up” the predatory pranksters. It seems like suicide given Hutch is a balding guy with declining testosterone levels. And yet, his inner John Wick emerges, igniting a firestorm of fists and kicks aimed at the baddies with professional precision.

In these kinds of revenge fantasies, this is the moment that defines the rest of the film, and its overall approach to the unspoken moral slide. Usually, they are accompanied by a tone of gravitas and foreboding as the character hits a suspended chord, but Nobody plays it a little differently.

Director Naishuller gives it an almost screwball feel. He gives us a lot of reaction shots, with back and forth glances of surprise at what’s happening among the participants. He also humanizes it by making it feel real-time, and painful.

This little bit of white-stetson-styled justice is our introduction to the unbridled Hutch Mansell we encountered in the opening scene — opposite two detectives asking Hutch who the hell he is, and being answered with the title card: Nobody.

So it turns out Hutch has a John Wick side (which isn’t all that surprising given the same writer, Derek Kolstad, is behind both outings). That’s the whole premise: generic family man was an elite assassin, and after a decade of keeping it under wraps, he clicks back into gear to save his family from a Russian crime mob lead by a Karaoke-crooner named Yulian (Alexey Serebryakov).

It’s Die Hard and John Wick and anything the Rock has ever done, but because it’s Bob Odenkirk as the secret ass-kicking sheriff, Nobody has a different flavour — veering away from blood-soaked popcorn to something more like beer-battered sleeper. The scale is intimate because it’s so personal, and Odenkirk’s ability to wear the Everyman’s mantle with such ease isn’t just a measure of his acting ability, it’s the sum total of every character he’s ever played.

It’s Die Hard and John Wick and anything the Rock has ever done, but because it’s Bob Odenkirk as the secret ass-kicking sheriff, Nobody has a different flavour — veering away from blood-soaked popcorn to something more like beer-battered sleeper.

We want Hutch to be a bad-ass because we’ve watched Odenkirk grimace as a wary victim so many times, we’re rooting for him when he explodes with rage — but never fully loses it. He’s manifesting the dark energy that gurgles inside our own dormant volcanoes, and watching the hot red streaks of emotional lava burn everything they touch feels cathartic.

What’s novel is that we aren’t hampered by the guilt that would normally come with all this nose-cracking graphic violence. I mean, I love John Wick movies, but I also feel a little guilty at bearing witness to the point-blank executions because it debases human life, and renders murder a means of amusement, even if it is “entertaining.”

What’s novel is that we aren’t hampered by the guilt that would normally come with all this nose-cracking graphic violence. I mean, I love John Wick movies, but I also feel a little guilty at bearing witness to the point-blank executions because it debases human life, and renders murder a means of amusement, even if it is “entertaining.”

Nobody manages to evade that moral hurdle by making sure Hutch feels the weight of his actions. He’s not a cold-blooded killer. He’s a thoughtful auditor, and even if those two things look relatively similar on screen when we add up all the action, the word “auditor” signals a different responsibility: He is someone who listens and inspects the consequences of his actions.

Hutch recognizes violence is wrong. He knows the toll it takes on his psyche. Yet, as the embodiment of the modern working Joe, he has a bare-knuckled desire to throw haymakers at the cruel, cruel world that threw him under the bus, and we have a deep-seated need to be right there with him. It’s not only “entertaining,” but watching one Nobody get even with the ambient chaos, cauterizes the nostrils with fumes of victory.

@katherinemonk 

Main image (Above): (from left) A bus thug (Alain Moussi) and Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) in Nobody, directed by Ilya Naishuller. Courtesy of Universal.
THE EX-PRESS, March 26, 2021

Review: Nobody

User Rating

4 (19 Votes)

Summary

4Score

It’s Die Hard and John Wick and anything the Rock has ever done, but because it’s Bob Odenkirk as the secret ass-kicking sheriff, Nobody has a different flavour — veering away from blood-soaked popcorn to something more like beer-battered sleeper. The scale is intimate because it's so personal, and Odenkirk’s ability to wear the Everyman’s mantle with such ease isn’t just a measure of his acting ability, it’s the sum total of every character he’s ever played. - Katherine Monk

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