Directed By Ilya Naishuller
Starring – Bob Odenkirk, Aleksey Serebryakov, Connie Nielsen
The Plot – Odenkirk stars as Hutch Mansell, an underestimated and overlooked dad and husband, taking life’s indignities on the chin and never pushing back. A nobody. When two thieves break into his suburban home one night, Hutch declines to defend himself or his family, hoping to prevent serious violence. His teenage son, Blake (Gage Munroe), is disappointed in him and his wife, Becca (Nielsen), seems to pull only further away. The aftermath of the incident strikes a match to Hutch’s long-simmering rage, triggering dormant instincts and propelling him on a brutal path that will surface dark secrets and lethal skills. In a barrage of fists, gunfire and squealing tires, Hutch must save his family from a dangerous adversary (Serebryakov) and ensure that he will never be underestimated as a nobody again.
Rated R for strong violence and bloody images, adult language throughout and brief drug use
– The Who. The prime ingredient of what sets this movie apart from contemporary vigilante films like “John Wick” or “The Equalizer” is in the every man approach of the central protagonist, which is played exceptionally from Odenkirk. In being Bob’s most serious portrayal to date, he not only does the homework in getting his hands dirty with no shortage of physicality given or taken throughout the film, but also embodies Hutch with a humanity and vulnerability that make him anything but an unstoppable force against all odds. In fact, it’s the silent storm from within Odenkirk’s demeanor that captivated me towards an abundance of investment for the character, especially considering much of his backstory and exposition never fleshes out in a way that rarely gives us these answers in the form of spoon-fed deposits throughout. So his ability to say so much in a stare or a mood articulates more about his character than any long-winded diatribe ever could, outlining a versatile spin that is anything other than synonymous with Saul Goodman. Also great to see was Christopher Lloyd hanging and banging with the barrage of bullets and manpower that come his way. Lloyd is evidently having the time of his life opposite of on-screen son ,Odenkirk, and too harvests a dark side to the chameleon actor that we’ve never seen before.
– Devastating action. There’s many elements to praise here, but for my money it’s the combination of rampant cinematography from Pawel Pogorzelski, and effective fight choreography that is anything but fluid. That second compliment might feel like anything but, however the decision to outline these sequences with a range of error further breeds believability in the element of the age and shelf life of the character’s skillset since he was last in action. The movements of the camera constantly bottle the energy and momentum of the growing chaos executed in each frame, and the wide angle approach of handheld captivity is certainly a choice that allows the audience to detect and follow transitions seamlessly despite no shortage of influences constantly making itself evident throughout. The action is creative without feeling overtly flashy, and when seen in a theater will inevitably elicit squirms and shrieks for the way it unapologetically unleashes the wrath of consequence.
– Tonal balance. Much of my delight in surprise for this film came in the limitations to humor that kept reality grounded, and allowed the seriousness of the narrative to persist with very few moments of levity along the way. There are some examples of wonderfully placed release inserted sporadically throughout, particularly in observational humor and situational awkwardness that stems from these brutal circumstances constantly coming out of nowhere. However, it’s toeing of the line from Naishuller that maintains focus on the danger and urgency of the adversity, and carves out a feel that is every bit reflective of the look that this film exerts in feeling like a little brother relative to something in the John Wick universe of films, especially considering the films share so many members of production in their linking. Finding that balance is a difficult thing in action films, but “Nobody” values each without alienating the other, and makes this film an experience that is every bit fun as it is flamboyant.
– Classical soundtrack. Composer David Buckley pitches a shut out of brilliance in what materializes from the framing used from the big band era that gives each track a new lease on life for translations we never would’ve expected. Such an example is with the song “Unforgettable” by Nat King Cole, with lyrics that not only play into the carnage in chaos that one man unleashes on his opposition, but also a clever play on words when contrasted against the lack of identity that the protagonist alludes to towards anyone who asks repeatedly. This is only one of the many examples of ingenuity cleverly scattered throughout the film’s impeccable soundtrack, relishing our ears with an elegant sense of nostalgia that plays ironically with the suffering dispersed in imagery, giving us an unavoidable smile that will resonate regardless of the gruesome nature enveloped.
– Masterful editing. Easily my favorite element of the film’s production, and one that vividly paints the exposition and backstory that an 87 minute script simply can’t, is the trigger happy editing between sequences of transition that are dualy purposed. Not only do these sharply stitched scenes depict the redundancy of a father whose family sees him a certain way that is anything other than deep down, but they also help articulate the sense of meticulous planning that made him deadly in his previous life. In seeing such radiance of artistic integrity, I am reminded of Aronofsky films like “Pi” and especially “Requiem For a Dream”, which vicariously unwind a day’s worth of activity in the course of seven seconds, only here it’s conveying a sense that safety in repetition is anything but appealing to the character in question. We find out so much about Hutch’s daily routine without actually learning anything about him personally, and it all plays so effectively in the idea of this suburban dad who has finally reached his breaking point with the ticking timebomb of life surrounding him.
– Underworld lore. While not as compelling in secrecy as the hotel or the chop shop in the John Wick franchise, there’s still just enough revealed throughout the character studies and backstories that give you a sense of lived-in quality in this world, even if not everything materializes in a way we expect it to. In this regard, I love that the film left just enough on the bone to not only play towards a sequel that it could possibly attain with a solid box office intake, but also in a realistic slice of life approach in that we don’t always attain all of the answers we seek. In gaining enough knowledge about Hutch and his backstory, we learn that it’s very much a past that is coming back to haunt him, giving us the audience a basic outline for how Hutch and his family end up where they are now, and why he has since been reduced to a life of secrecy and suburban confinement. Especially considering this movie is a mere 87 minutes, it’s remarkable the way these elements naturally materialize along the way, getting us close enough to the integrity of the character while still making legend his greatest feat of strength.
– Variety. In addition to the elements of the movie’s action, which I previously dissected, the stages they persist on are equally diverse in maintaining interest through creativity. Without question, my favorite sequence is a Batman-esque home invasion, complete with movements and blunt force being executed in the shadows of a home field advantage. Beyond that, there’s a claustrophobic bus sequence full of weapons, a car chase sequence that destructively dazzles throughout the alley’s of downtown, and of course a chaotic finale that piles the bodies inside of a business warehouse. Nothing ever feels dully repetitive in setting or even fighting styles, which adds an element of skill toward Hutch’s character, but beyond that equally invests us with the many beats of story that ties each of them together under one fascinating environment.
– First act floundering. For my money, the initial set up of this film on the road toward setting the events in motion felt a bit too clunky and even convenient in how it pieces certain aspects together. This isn’t to say that the script has any glaring plot holes or instances of artificial reality, just that it moves its pieces in a way that is detectably obvious from other better movies that felt more personally gratifying, and takes the easiest road that isn’t always the most rewarding to the transformation of the character. Because of such, the screenplay feels like a bullet point board of movements that it must reach before film’s end, and occasionally does so with a route that is circumstantial only based on Hutch finding his own trouble, instead of vice versa. It eventually flows with a better second and third acts that kinetically earn the emotions and motivations of the character, but introduces us in a way that isn’t the most gripping in terms of appeal to how we’re brought in.
– Weak support. Whether it’s in the nearly ambiguous opposition of Hutch, with a Russian mobster who doesn’t appear in the film until there is fifty minutes left, or the lukewarm underwriting of Hutch’s family characters, it’s clear that this film was made for one man alone, and it’s a fact that produces some glaring problems along the way. The main problem in this regard is stakes. Without getting to flesh out Hutch’s wife or children with personalities and engagements that make them personal to the movie’s titular character, there’s a disconnect between us and the conflict that doesn’t sell the investment in ways that hooks you even nearly 90 minutes in, feeling highly inferior once more to John Wick, a film that was able to flesh out meaning and importance to a dog better than this movie can towards human beings. There’s a lack of chemistry that keeps what is hanging in the balance from ever fully elevating, and makes me wish the film was around twenty minutes longer, in order to spend more down time with these key pieces that are virtually meaningless without it.
– Predictable. Because much of this film was worked on by pivotal pieces in the John Wick franchise, it’s easy to feel their influence in everything from the environment, to the gritty look of the film, which is almost reflective to its predecessor. However, the biggest problem from such a conjoined comparison is in the lack of surprises initiated within the screenplay. This makes “Nobody” feel like one of those films where the trailer not only outlines everything about the movie to the audience, but also one that put the cart (Action) before the horse (Story), giving us an occasionally dwindling experience that could’ve excited with more of a balance between respective sides at war. As for its resolution, it wraps up this conflict and a last minute arising one with an event that I still don’t fully understand, and ties things together in a way that feels too forced or conventional for a world established with such an element of danger.
My Grade: 7/10 or B