I must confess to you, dear reader. I went into Nobody with reasonably tempered expectations. I had expected a rehash of John Wick with perhaps some characteristic Odenkirk humour sprinkled in; a fair assumption to make since the two films share a writer, Derek Kolstad.
I have never been so delighted to have assumed incorrectly.
In short, Nobody is a rip-roaring electrical jolt of an action film, with set-piece fights that will draw you into the visceral action, jaw-tightening feats of choreographed prowess, and violence that will make even the most hardened slasher-lovers cringe with discomfort.
Two-time (screenwriting) Emmy winner Bob Odenkirk is Hutch Mansell, a retired secret agent who worked for “All those 3-letter agencies”. Hutch has settled down to live a quiet suburban life with all the trimmings: a passionless marriage, a son who is disappointed in him, and friends so insecure in their masculinity it hurts. However, the suburban domestic bliss is short-lived. Hutch’s past rears its head when his house is burgled and his family assaulted, re-awakening the warrior within and sending Hutch on a cold burn across town, seeking out impossible fights and explosive confrontations. Odenkirk is very much playing against type in this film. Gone are the sleazy trappings of Better Call Saul or the absurdism of Mr. Show; in their place stands a modern action hero. Hutch is no brooding Bryan Mills or suave James Bond. He’s a family man, suffers from chronic poor timing, and always makes us laugh. Impressively doing all his own fights and stunts, Odenkirk said in an interview with GQ, “I trained for two years, and I’m proud to say I did all my own fighting, and I loved it.”
Writer Derek Kolstad is a master of his craft at this point, riding high off the success of the John Wick franchise; he knows how to play with the rules of an action blockbuster, still applying classic tropes, but spinning them in new ways. Combining his writing with the obvious talents of the film’s director Ilya Naishuller, the duo serves up a genuinely fresh take on the genre to audiences who are eager to devour the splendid action on display.
That isn’t to say that the film is perfect. The overall pacing of the film is solid. However, the breaks between major fights sometimes felt too long, leading to some tonal discontent between the grounded moments of reflection and character and the balls-to-the-wall action. The film also opts to have our main Big Bad and disposable henchmen be Russian gangsters. Oh, reader, I despair! I, for one, like many of you I expect, have had quite enough of generic Russian bad guys. Please, the Cold War ended thirty years ago. Let the Russians play some heroes for once! However, these surface-level flaws are dwarfed by the film’s humour, fast action, and compelling characters—a breath of fresh air.
Nobody does share some qualities with its cinematic cousin John Wick: the impressive and well-put-together fight scenes, the punchy sound design, and the fast-paced action. However, this is where the similarities end. While John Wick is a self-aware action flick and will often play into the well-worn tropes of that genre, Nobody is grounded; presenting characters that feel realistic (or as realistic as a retired secret agent and his family can be) and sympathetic. The action is also a departure from the slick gun tricks and acrobatics of the Wick Franchise, presenting a more visceral, punchier, and (relatively) realistic take on the genre, really giving this film a fresh feeling. It’s always a delight to see writers and filmmakers play with the established rules a little, which is undoubtedly the case with Nobody.
And so, we arrive at the end of the review. Before you go, dear reader, I leave you with one piece of advice. If you, for whatever reason, decide to rob a house in the American suburbs, make sure it isn’t the house of one Robert John Odenkirk, and for goodness sake, DO NOT steal the God-damn Kitty-Cat bracelet!
Watch the Trailer to Nobody here!