Review: ‘Nobody’ Delivers Brutal Fun
by Ben Martin
When you think of a bad-ass action hero, you think of Bob Odenkirk, right? Yeah, he wasn’t the first actor that sprung to mind for me either. When I first saw the poster and trailer and even heard the premise for Nobody — the new action film starring Odenkirk — I was wary, despite my love of the guy as both a performer and a writer. I remember thinking, “Well, Nobody looks like a rip-off of the John Wick flicks (2014-), but I guess I’ll see it because Bob Odenkirk’s in it.” Still, I didn’t know how the heck ol’ Bob would pull off being an action hero. Frankly, I just didn’t think he fit that bill.
Despite my initial doubts, though, it was clear that the actor was approaching the action-revenge subgenre in the most intelligent way possible. After being the victim of a couple of break-ins, Odenkirk said he started to wonder how he would have handled such incidents if he was a bad-ass. Thus, he was inspired to make a Death Wish (1974)-style movie. Having been inspired by such an unfortunate muse, Odenkirk got together with some producers, and they soon approached the right folks familiar with the genre to flesh out this idea. John Wick co-creator Derek Kolstad was brought on to write a screenplay. Then, Ilya Naishuller, who made the cinematic equivalent of a first-person shooter with Hardcore Henry (2015), was attached to direct.
In the film, Odenkirk stars as the titular nobody, Hutch Mansell. In his mysterious past life, Hutch wasn’t someone to mess with. But, he traded that life in long ago to be a family man with a soul-sucking, 9-to-5 work-a-day existence. Nevertheless, his life as an all-American family man is disturbed one night when his suburban home is broken into. Oddly enough, though, Hutch does nothing to defend his household and family, letting the armed robbers steal and peel out.
Unsurprisingly, Hutch’s family is disappointed in his lack of action and apparent cowardice. But it isn’t the emasculation and shame that ultimately gets to our hero. Instead, Hutch is finally set off when he discovers that the masked burglars stole one of his daughter’s most precious possessions. As a result, he turns back to his old ways and sets out to retrieve the item. A choice that leads him down a violent path in which he raises the ire of the Russian mob!
While Nobody is by no means a John Wick clone, it shares a significant chunk of DNA with those movies. Not only did Kolstad write the movie in review, but it also takes some visual inspiration from those films and features plenty of gunplay. Frankly, I think such aping was an intentional and logical choice as John Wick attracts audiences. Furthermore, that continuing series of movies is arguably the definitive American revenge-based action picture format, just like the original Death Wish before it. Having said all that, I must make it very clear that Nobody is very much its own thing and offers something different.
John Wick is almost balletic in its heavily gun-based action and violence; Nobody is much more physical and brutal. More importantly, though, these films do not share the same tone at all. Yes, the Wick flicks have a sense of fun about them, but Nobody has a real sense of humor to go along with its action. Considering these movies will be endlessly compared, I’m going to go ahead and put this out there: Nobody is better-paced and more easily digestible than the John Wick movies would ever hope to be. As much as I like that trilogy (which has two more chapters coming down the pike), it can be an exhausting franchise to watch as the action simply never ceases. Nobody, on the other hand, provides a good balance between kinetic action and breathing room.
Then, of course, there’s Bob Odenkirk, who’s fittingly one of the keys to Nobody being as good as it is. Unlike most action heroes, Odenkirk manages to be the rare bad-ass who’s also vulnerable. See, the protagonist of Hutch is well written, but I think it’s ultimately Odenkirk’s characterization of him that hits home. I’m admittedly ashamed that I ever doubted Odenkirk could pull this off. After all, I, like many others, have seen him evolve from comedic writer-actor to dramatic and layered performances in Breaking Bad (2008-2013) and Better Call Saul (2015-2022), among a few others.
Ultimately, Nobody is one of those rare films where all the right choices are made. The end product is the most fun I’ve had watching a film in a long time. In fact, I had so much fun watching it that I almost forgot my mild anxiety in the age of COVID and the fact that I was wearing a mask in a theater I was sharing with fellow audience members. If you’re a fan of action films, I cannot recommend Nobody highly enough!
Nobody is now playing in theaters & is available for Premium VOD rental.