I must preface this by saying that, although they have been on my list to see for a long time, I have not seen any of the John Wick films. To that end, I was also unaware that the writer of this film, Derek Kolstad, was also responsible for those movies. Thus, initially I was surprised that a lot of people who hate this movie - many of whom are of the variety that think "LOL" is appropriate to include in a review they want people to take seriously - were referring to the main character as Saul Wick. Although I will probably see similarities when I finally get around to them, the fact that this has been hung on a movie that has received some critical acclaim is not surprising. The John Wick movies revitalized Keanu Reeves's movie career, while Bob Odenkirk has been riding high on his portrayal of Saul Goodman. Both are way overdue to the usual hipster hate.
So, other than mentioning that I am aware of the connection, my approach to this film is that I first thought the poster was an advertisement for the next season of Better Call Saul, ignored the title and just figured I'd worry about it once there was a solid date. When I realized it was a movie I was at first unsure if that was even Bob Odenkirk on the poster, as he is not the first person I would think that would be in an action film. In fact, the poster, though striking in a graphic manner, reveals absolutely nothing about the film or builds up any expectations. It's just there. It's understandable that Ilya Naishuller's name isn't sprayed across it because, although the concept of Hardcore Henry was interesting, in the end it was a pretty forgettable film.
The same cannot be said for Nobody. Naishuller isn't basing this on any pretense, but instead just set out to make an action film, and Kolstad helps by making this just off-kilter enough to justify having someone like Odenkirk in the role. It also helps that the basic premise was Odenkirk's idea and, with their star dedicated to a two-year regimen to get in shape to play the part, Kolstad and Naishuller were able to bring the whole idea to life.
Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) is a middle-aged suburban worker drone. He's in a loveless marriage, his son (Gage Munroe) doesn't exactly care for him and he has to put up with constant condescension from his brother-in-law (Billy MacLellan) and father-in-law (Michael Ironside), for whom he works as an accountant. One night his home is burglarized and, while his son tackles one of the them, dad has the drop on another with a golf club, but holds back. His wife (Connie Nielsen), son and practically everyone else thinks him a coward. The only one who doesn't is his daughter (Paisley Cadorath), and it is the loss of her kitty-cat bracelet that sets him off.
It turns out that Mansell is not the nebbish he seems. His father David (Christopher Lloyd) is ex-FBI, and he seems to be talking over a shortwave set with another family member (RZA) who is in hiding. He tracks down the burglars, but soon finds out the bracelet isn't with them. His rage needing to be released he finds a target in a group of drunks who board a bus and begin harassing the passengers. He is momentarily satisfied, but it turns out one of the carousers was the brother of Yulian Kuznetsov (Aleksey Serebryakov), a major player in the Russian mafia with a penchant for wanton violence.
Once the movie gets going it turns into a stylized action thriller, revealing more about Mansell and his immediate family. The reveal is piecemealed rather than dumped, and although there are plenty of great fight scenes no one involved in the production ever makes the mistake of taking the whole thing that seriously. On the other hand, they also don't make the mistake of making this pure parody. It straddles the line well enough to keep the surprises coming. If one were to look into it I am sure that the movie would be easy to pick apart for leaps in logic and plot threads that don't lead anywhere or make much sense, but Naishuller, Odenkirk and Kolstad are not trying to rewrite or perfect the action genre, but rather make an entertaining film that attempts to avoid hitting too many clichés.
Odenkirk and Lloyd are great, and RZA, during his short time on screen, has chemistry with both. Connie Nielsen starts off as that usual suburban wife everyone loves to hate, but in a surprising turn Hutch takes responsibility on his end for how their marriage has progressed. It also hints that she may know a little more about his past than she lets on - field dressing one of his wounds with Super Glue is a pretty big hint. Even here there is no attempt to dump more information than what is needed for the story, and she seems smart enough to disappear for the time needed for Hutch to clean things up.
The fight on the bus is one of the best choreographed action scenes I have witnessed in a long time, especially since it seems Hollywood has been coming up empty on new things to do. The ending owes a bit to both Home Alone and The Boondock Saints and, for those that worry that Lloyd's role is treated like a cameo like in many recent films he's been in, he has a major part to play and it is wonderful seeing him smiling from ear-to-ear enjoying the fact that someone gave him something fun to do.
In the end, whether there are similarities to John Wick and other action films or not, Nobody is simply meant to be a fun time watching Bob Odenkirk (who does a lot of his own stunt work) beat up bad guys. It's a quick 92 minutes, leaving out a lot of the bloat that one finds in movies these days, and does its job to simply entertain.
Time: 92 minutes
Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, Christopher Lloyd, Aleksey Serebryakov, RZA
Director: Ilya Naishuller