Like Liam Neeson before him, acclaimed actor Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Mr. Show) is being given the chance to make a fun pivot in his career and join the roster of middle-aged action stars that audiences just can’t seem to get enough of. Odenkirk, who is now 58 years old, has long proven himself to be more than capable of the kind of intensity required for these kinds of movies, and this particular vehicle that’s been handed to him comes from writer Derek Kolstad, who penned all three John Wick films as well as writing for and executive producing Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Nobody certainly does bear a significant resemblance to the John Wick universe (for reference, Keanu Reeves is 56), but with a bit more of an emphasis on family than the lone wolf style that Wick goes for. There’s nothing particularly new here, but the film does seem aware of that fact and has a huge amount of fun with its basic premise.
Nobody follows an average Joe named Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk), someone who seems to just take the indignities of life on the chin without pushing back much at all. The film opens on Hutch in police custody – bruised, bloodied, and handcuffed – before rewinding the clock to show (in a fun bit of editing) his daily, mundane, and monotonous life in the suburbs. He wakes up, he makes some coffee, he misses the garbage truck for the hundredth time, he works out, he goes to work, rinse and repeat. One day, this life of boring bliss is interrupted by a pair of thieves who break into the Mansell home in the middle of the night. Hutch attempts to avoid any serious complications by allowing the burglars to take whatever they would like and escape, and refuses to act even when he has a chance to stop them.
Already in a weary marriage with his wife Becca (Connie Nielsen), which has long been fizzling out, the incident leaves her even more disappointed with him. Their son Blake (Gage Munroe) loses what little respect he had for his father for his failure to defend his family or even himself. Only Sammy (Paisley Cadorath), their young daughter, still shows her dad some affection. At first, Hutch seems like he will simply take this latest abasement without too much fuss, but when he realizes that the home invaders made off with Sammy’s beloved bracelet, things become personal. As Hutch goes on a vigilante hunt for revenge, things quickly escalate and he attracts the attention of some powerful and dangerous people, notably a Russian mob boss named Yulian Kuznetsov (Aleksei Serebryakov).
The film is exceptionally fast-paced, coming in at a crisp 90 minutes and not wasting much time with its setup. A killer soundtrack supplies much of the film’s winking attitude for its exciting action thrills, complimented by some genuinely spectacular stunt work for its many fight scenes. We learn that, naturally, Hutch used to be some form of trained killer for some three-letter agencies, which have endowed him with that particular set of skills we’ve seen time and time again. Whatever his job exactly was before isn’t totally clear, but Nobody assures us that it doesn’t matter very much – there’s a clever running gag where anytime Hutch begins to drone on with exposition about his past life, he’s cut off due to the people he’s talking to dying from the injuries he’s inflicted on them.
Unlike John Wick‘s fluid and mesmerizing action sequences, Nobody is far grimier and less pretty. The film’s best scene is set in a cramped public bus as Hutch brawls with a group of drunk and disorderly men, and the soundtrack drops away completely to amplify the brutality of the fight. All action stars take a considerable amount of licks in these movies, but Hutch gets roughed up more than audiences might be used to, and the fistfights and shootouts he gets himself into can turn exceptionally gruesome. Even so, the film’s primary goal is entertainment, and it never lets up on ensuring that all of its high-octane violence is made to be more fun than unsettling. The wildness of the action only grows as the film progresses, something that director Ilya Naishuller excelled at in his underrated 2015 debut Hardcore Henry. He brings the same kind of energy here.
Nobody is heavy on the power fantasy that people – particularly men – have when it comes to home invasions; the dream of heroically and violently defending your home and family from bad guys. It’s the scenario that is constantly sold to Americans in order to get them to arm themselves with guns. The film certainly acknowledges this – Hutch’s next door neighbor boasts how he wishes the thieves would have come to his house so he could deal with them, and Hutch’s brother-in-law forces him to carry a gun after the incident in order to protect Becca. But it’s not particularly interested in confronting this aspect of American culture, and it often seems to suggest that such violence is actually a good thing. Hutch becomes much livelier and more confident once he starts back into his old ways of killing, and compares the feeling of beating a bunch of guys to a pulp as “salvation day”.
As consistently fun as it is, the film still falls into the trap of similar action flicks where the whole thing eventually dissolves into only being about the enjoyment of all the killing and shooting, leaving whatever character and emotion was built up beforehand to fall a bit to the wayside. Odenkirk is undeniably great in the role, but the film doesn’t feel like it takes full advantage of the range of his talents, leaving you wanting just a bit more. Of course, it’s obvious that Nobody is interested in continuing on with potential sequels that could grant that wish, and at the end of the day, this is a film that features the legendary 82 year-old Christopher Lloyd pumping baddies full of shotgun shells and also has Odenkirk shout lines like “Gimme the goddamn kitty cat bracelet, motherf*cker!”, so it’s kinda hard to not be looking forward to another round of this.