When I first saw the trailer for Nobody, my first thought (as it was for probably many others) was that it was going to be a not-so-subtle mix of John Wick and Taken, with maybe a little bit of Falling Down thrown in for good measure. After all, based on the trailer, the movie was going to be about an ordinary man with extraordinary skills who finally snaps after living a fruitless, mundane life. Last week I reviewed Cosmic Sin, which I deemed too unimaginative to be anything more than a ripoff of a whole lot of different films. Does that mean Nobody was going to fall into that same trap? Fortunately, it doesn’t. Although the summary I wrote above isn’t too far off from the actual plot of the film, there is more going on here than simply retreading what’s come before.
First and foremost, unlike John Wick, Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) is your typical family man. He goes to the same boring job, always seems to forget to put the trash out on Tuesdays, eats dinner and goes to bed. Unlike Bryan MIlls, Hutch is still married, though his love life has taken a downward spiral in recent years, prompting his wife (Connie Nielsen) to place a barricade of pillows between her and her husband while they sleep. One night, things change for the worse(?) when some desperate criminals break into Hutch’s house. Even though he is eventually able to get the upper hand when his son (Gage Munroe) tackles one of the burglars, he decides to let them get away with the few dollars he had on hand.
After a litany of people give their two cents over whether he did the right thing or not and his daughter (Paisley Cadorath) is concerned about a necklace that may have also been stolen, Hutch makes the decision to take matters into his own hands and hunt down the perpetrators. With a quick visit to his ex-FBI father (Christopher Lloyd), he hunts the criminals down. At one point during his excursion, a gaggle of drunk, rich idiots get on the bus he’s on and start to harass a young girl. He has no choice, then, but to use them as a way to vent his frustration and utter disappointment. What he doesn’t realize is that one of the drunks is the well-to-do brother of a Russian mobster (Aleksey Serebryakov), who swiftly seeks revenge upon the man that would dare hurt his family.
The key to believing that Hutch would slowly progress from a simple family man into a warrior relies heavily on Odenkirk, and he does not disappoint. The careful way Odenkirk utilizes his body language to show the subtle evolution of Hutch’s abilities is perfectly executed, as is the way he mixes Hutch’s desire to keep his secret past locked away and his desperation to break free from the “prison” he built for himself, at times even praying for a return to a life he left behind long ago.
At the same time, this isn’t a man whose skills are readily available. From the first fight he forces himself into, it’s clear he knows more than he’s letting on, but his skills are a bit rusty. It’s a lot like riding a bike for the first time in twenty years; you may stumble a few times as your muscle memory reactivates, but once it does, you become an unstoppable force.
I also liked seeing Christoper Lloyd back on screen, especially when he’s able to jump into the action. Too bad they couldn’t somehow find a way to integrate Michael Ironside, who plays Hutch’s wife’s father, to also join the final action sequence. It may have been a little much if they had, but Ironside jumping in to kick some tail is always worth the price of admission.
When it comes to the Russian mafia, gangsters, or whatever they are, that is where the film begins to falter. The actors hired to portray them are a little flat in their style and delivery, and I never truly felt they were as threatening as they probably should have been. They were weak in a way that makes them nothing more than fodder for the hero. The upside to them being nothing more than a nameless rabble of victims is it gives director Ilya Naishuller a chance to come up with some creative ways to dispatch of the minions. Naishuller was never afraid to go after people without hesitation. There was no need for monologueing in any of the kinetic action pieces.
On the surface, Nobody feels like it might be a boring or uninspired retread of several different films that would be much more suited for Liam Neeson, but once you get into the nitty-gritty of what’s happening, and we move past the obvious homages to those other films, you find there’s more meat on these bones than the advertising campaign provides. In other words, Nobody goes all out to navigate a style and a theme that we have seen before but carve out its own little niche in the process, one that stays true to itself while giving credit where credit is due.
My Grade: A-
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Next week, new movies include Godzilla vs Kong, French Exit and Concrete Cowboy (Netflix). If you would like to see a review for one of these, or any other film out next week, please respond in the comments below.