What do you get when you pair special forces training and a middle-aged man with a boring life in the suburbs? You get Nobody, Ilya Naishuller’s balls-to-the-wall violent adventure starring everybody’s favourite con man turned lawyer Bob Odenkirk.
Nobody follows family man Hutch Mansell, a husband and father of two who can’t seem to ever put the rubbish out on time. Mostly ignored by his wife Becca (Connie Nielson) and emasculated in the eyes of his son, Hutch is stuck in a time loop of brain numbing suburban activities like jogging and clocking in to his 9-5 just to stare blankly at spreadsheets. He’s truly a nobody, until an unfortunate encounter with a pair of hapless burglars reveals that he isn’t, and Hutch is pulled into a vicious underbelly controlled by a karaoke loving Russian mobster.
If this plot has you thinking ‘this sounds a bit like John Wick’ you’d be right on the money. Written by Derek Kolstad, the brain that birthed the Keanu Reeves-led blockbuster franchise, Nobody features the familiar elements of European criminals going up against a one-man-army (who secretly possesses insane fighting and survival skills) because of a seemingly innocuous inciting incident. Kolstad definitely didn’t bother to reinvent the wheel here, but what he did with this fourth go at his success formula was truly sublime. Nobody has just enough differences in plot devices and characterisation to not feel like a carbon copy of its predecessor, with extra humour thrown in for good measure. Odenkirk, whose extensive comedy work really came in handy here, walks the line between hapless and hilarious brilliantly.
While casting Odenkirk in such a role may raise a couple eyebrows at first, his work here more than proves that he’s up to the challenge of being an action star. Hutch is such an interesting character. Beyond his incredible fighting skills, Hutch is shown to have a highly observant and intuitive mind; despite having the chance to beat the burglars in his home senseless, Hutch chose to let them go, noticing that their gun was empty and they were afraid. The outlandish creativity that Hutch displays in some of his killing methods definitely suggests that he enjoys the brutality and there’s a weird sense of growth through the violence, as he makes his way toward the final showdown that feels like levelling up in a video game. With every fight, every black eye and patched wound, Hutch comes more and more alive.
Family plays a central role in Nobody, but the standouts in Hutch’s family aren’t his wife and kids, it’s his dad and brother – David and Harry Mansell. Played by Christopher Lloyd and Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA respectively, the other Mansell boys don’t see a lot of screen time but make the absolute most of their minutes. Though Harry mostly appears via disembodied voice, he is presented as a genuine support for Hutch when the banality, and later complexity, of his life become a bit much too bear. Communicating through stereo systems and phone calls, Harry does his best to guide his brother through the chaos unscathed.
David, on the other hand, spends much of his time in his retirement home watching old westerns and speaking in a grave and serious tone, but don’t let this fool you into thinking Lloyd’s casting was wasteful. Lloyd truly seems to relish his role and it’s so fun to watch. Anyone with fond memories of Lloyd as Doc Brown in the Back to the Future franchise (read as: everybody over the age of 15) will find the senior Mansell to be a real highlight of this film.
It’s easy for a film with a concept like Nobody to get butchered in the wrong hands, so audiences should thank whatever deity they pray to that Ilya Naishuller was at the helm. A bit of a nobody himself where Hollywood may be concerned, Naishuller’s only other notable film was a mind-bending box office bomb called Hardcore Henry, though fans of singer The Weeknd will have seen his hand directing the False Alarm music video and it’s this chaotic, fast-paced energy that is ever present in Nobody. Even when the film seems to slow down for a breath, there’s an urgency pulsating just beneath the surface that puts you on edge just a little. Naishuller’s sharp eye for action sequences helps bring to life some incredible stunt work, car chases and surprisingly, Hutch’s monotonous daily routine montage at the film’s beginning to ensure that this film is never as boring as Hutch’s life seems to be.
There’s a lot of elements to Nobody that, in another time and with any other crew, probably wouldn’t work. But, thankfully, they do. Kolstad’s writing and Naishuller’s ‘throw it at the wall and see what sticks’ approach to directing are a match made in movie heaven. And with the genius casting of Bob Odenkirk to garnish, there is absolutely nothing to dislike about Nobody. Nobody could very realistically put Naishuller on the map as one of the industry’s best action directors and open the door for Odenkirk to kick more bad guy ass, which frankly, is a future we should all look forward to.