Everybody dies. Some sooner than others.
Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) has a seemingly average life, if not slightly more boring than most. He runs in the mornings, forgets to take out the trash, inputs numbers at a boring job, and is running his life just slightly off-tempo with the rest of his family.
He’s also a former CIA assassin who goes through an identity crisis that makes him really, really want to beat the shit out of people again.
In the movie itself, this is played as a bit of a twist, but it’s the entire concept of Nobody (2021), so I don’t mind spilling the beans early. Hutch is married to Becca (Connie Nielsen) who always takes the last of the coffee—a way too specific detail for this not to be largely a power fantasy for a white male middle-aged husband—has a son (Gage Munroe), who considers him third when it comes to relatives who have served, and works for his father-in-law’s company while unsuccessfully trying to buy it to have something he can call his own.
When two thieves break into his house one night, Hutch is calm and reasonable and lets them go without a fight. He ends up being berated for this by his son, his neighbor, and his brother-in-law. But he keeps his cool, telling his former partner/fellow ex-assassin, Harry (RZA) that he knew the guns weren’t loaded and they weren’t serious. But then he realizes … his daughter’s kitty cat bracelet is missing …
As far as inciting incidents to bring a former “company man” back into that way of life, it ranks far below John Wick (2014) which has the same writer, Derek Kolstad, and producer, David Leitch, but it’s more like the tip of an iceberg than the final straw.
Bob Odenkirk is great as Hutch, and frankly he was the biggest draw for me. It’s not quite as gimmicky as … like, if they cast Will Ferrell as Judge Dredd, but watching Odenkirk kick ass was absolutely what attracted me. And he does a great job! Anyone who has seen an episode of Better Call Saul knows he’s a great actor, and anyone who has seen an episode of Mr. Show with Bob and David knows he can yell and curse with the best of them. But his guise as a meek family man matches with his former life as a CIA asset and his new life as a slightly-over-the-hill vigilante. The best mix of all of those vibes is the bus fight, the first real action set-piece of the film, and it’s so bone-crunchingly brutal that it’s almost a thesis statement. Hutch knows exactly what he’s doing, but he’s also going to get the shit kicked out of him.
The director is Ilya Naishuller, who helmed Hardcore Henry (2015). I was way more mixed on that movie, which had a lot of style but the individual moments were greater than the sum of its parts. Nobody has a fairly standard story—suburban dad is tired of feeling unimportant and ends up being a badass—but the more focused narrative and less gimmicky style played to Naishuller’s strengths. There are several action scenes in the second half that expertly blend tension, humor, and brutality.
I mentioned the simplicity of the story, and, if anything, I think the parts that drag are the ones that try to spice that up. Due to the bus fight, Hutch runs afoul of Yulian (Aleksei Serebryakov), a Russian mobster currently in charge of a mobile, criminal bank called the Obshak. When Hutch gets in deeper, he meets with a CIA contact known as The Barber (Colin Salmon) who gives him more information. All of this was fine, but it kinda muddies up the story without adding too much, because Hutch’s story was about his family. John Wick can have those crazy spy world details, because he doesn’t have a wife or dog to pay attention to.
Serebryakov made a good impression as Yulian. I liked that he seemed at peace running his club where he gets to sing and dance (and kill) whenever he wants, and the Obshak is a total drag on that. I also haven’t mentioned Hutch’s father, David (Christopher Lloyd), who gets a couple fun scenes. It’s just nice to see Lloyd get something to do.
My biggest issue is the standard storyline, especially since you have Connie Nielsen as Hutch’s wife – why not use her? The small details (I loved Hutch’s basement, the Home Alone (1990)-style traps, Hutch trying to tell his story to people who keep dying, etc.), the humor, and the well-staged action more than make up for that, though.
I am aware that part of me might be too easy on this film because there’s no way the young me would ever believe Bob Odenkirk would star in an action film as the badass lead. But it’s undeniably cool as hell! More out-of-the-box action heroes, please. Until that happens, I’ll be enjoying Nobody.