Film

Review: A Mild-Mannered Bob Odenkirk Delivers a One-Two Punch of Character and Action in Nobody

Combining the action talents of Hardcore Henry director Ilya Naishuller and the writer Derek Kolstad, (all three John Wick movies as well as two upcoming episodes of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”), Nobody is a part of that very niche sub-genre of action movies in which the most mild-mannered guy in the film turns out to be the most deadly. In this case, that man is suburban husband and father Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”), who works in manufacturing for a father-in-law (Michael Ironside) who doesn’t respect him in the slightest (for good reason). Hutch is a bit of a wet fish at work and at home, where his wife Becca (Connie Nielsen) and teen son Blake (Gage Munroe) see him as a non-presence in their repetitive, day-to-day lives.

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

During a late-night break-in by two assailants, Hutch has the chance to basically bash in one of the robbers’ skulls with a golf club, but he hesitates. Not only did his son see this happen, but everyone who knows about the incident questions Hutch as both a father and a man. Claiming that he was afraid his son would be hurt if he resisted, Hutch is devastated by this assessment of his abilities, and when he finds out that a precious trinket belonging to his young daughter is missing, the real Hutch emerges, and he quickly finds out where his attackers live in order to go retrieve it. For the first time in the film, we see the emergence of a well-trained, highly dangerous person who clearly keeps his dark past hidden and deeply buried in his mind so as not to be a danger to the world at large.

On the bus ride home from his revenge outing, Hutch is attacked by a group of thugs, some of whom he actually kills, including the son of a dangerous Russian mobster (Aleksey Serebryakov), who swears revenge against the man who did this and sets out to kill Hutch and his whole family. An entertaining brand of excessive brutality is the name of the game in Nobody, which is basically a B-movie revenge picture with well-staged car chases, gunplay, explosions, lots of stabbing, and fists a-flying. Odenkirk is so skilled at capturing the banality of daily life that when his violent side comes to the forefront, it’s genuinely shocking. But he injects enough heart and motivation into the character to make the film something close to an actual character study of a man who is tired of being underestimated and taken for granted by everyone in his world.

And just when we think the fun has shown its true face, we get fantastic supporting performances from Christopher Lloyd as Hutch’s equally scrappy father and RZA as Hutch’s adopted brother Harry. It’s beyond satisfying to see Lloyd get an actual character to play again and not just drop in for a cameo where he plays off his Doc Brown character from Back to the Future. The man is an accomplished actor, and it’s great to see him recognized as much by director Naishuller.

Nobody moves along at an energetic pace, never wearing out its welcome by keeping to around 90 minutes in length and making the characters interesting, memorable and important to the fat-free story. Knowing what Nielsen is capable of as an actor, she might be a bit underutilized here, but she comes through with great emotional resonance in key moments. As my grandmother would have said, this movie is a hoot and a half—a genuine rush of adrenaline in a fairly tame early-spring season, as far as action movies go.

The film opens in theaters beginning Friday, March 26. Please follow CDC, health department and venue guidelines if attending indoor screenings.

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