Directed by Ilya Naishuller.
Starring Bob Odenkirk, Christopher Lloyd, Connie Nielsen, J.P. Manoux, RZA, Michael Ironside, Colin Salmon, Billy MacLellan, Araya Mengesha, Gage Munroe, Paisley Cadorath, Aleksandr Pal, Humberly González, Edsson Morales, and Aleksey Serebryakov.
A bystander who intervenes to help a woman being harassed by a group of men becomes the target of a vengeful drug lord.
Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk hoping to follow in the footsteps of Liam Neeson and Keanu Reeves to become late-career cinematic badasses with Nobody) is more than a nobody, he might as well be a zombie. With a weekly routine so basic and mundane it can be summarized in 30 seconds with rapid hard cuts in quick succession, we learn that Hutch’s life of existential crisis consists of working an unfulfilling position at a manufacturing business owned by his in-laws, regularly failing to get the trash ready for pickup every Tuesday, brief workout sessions whenever he has the time, and a rather cold and distant dynamic with his wife Becca (Connie Nielsen) and his son and daughter, although he tries and is well-meaning.
The family is pulled further apart when a pair of thieves break into their home sloppily attempting to steal whatever they can (there’s a sympathetic reason they are doing this, and it’s nice to see the film make time to humanize such controversial life choices with believability from desperation). In the middle of the frenzy, Hutch’s son is able to wrestle one of the armed robbers to the ground leaving the other wide-open for his dad to essentially play whack-a-mole with his golf club. Hutch approaches his target with the intent to protect his family but suddenly stops. The violent situation is diffused and the burglars retreat, but not without a family disappointed that their protector essentially behaved like a coward under heat. The black-eye Hutch’s son now bears is a temporary reminder of this failure, with Bob Odenkirk making subtle acknowledgments of the scar.
Now, even less acknowledged and viewed differently by his loved ones, Hutch visits his father (screen legend Christopher Lloyd who is also given some memorable moments of violence here by way of a shotgun), who is clearly a hardened veteran when it comes to physical confrontations. Perhaps with a death wish, Hutch borrows some belongings from his father to not only go looking for the thieves but trouble in general.
Boy, does he ever find it. Late at night on a bus, Hutch and a lone woman are graced with the juvenile presence of some drunk Russians giving off rape vibes while harassing the woman and the driver. Hutch removes the driver from the equation and then starts a brutal fight against all five or so, weaponizing the confined environment and turning blades against the degenerates. It’s lengthy, visceral, shot with clarity, and downright barbaric at times which I suppose is what’s to be expected from this filmmaking team of director Ilya Naishuller (known for first-person perspective projects including short films and the ambitious and underappreciated first-person shooter video game style movie Hardcore Henry) and John Wick scribe Derek Kolstad.
Nobody is not just a story of a vigilante, though, as it becomes clear that Hutch has been hiding his experience from everyone. In other words, he’s actually a somebody, which is a logical revelation to explain away his combat prowess but one that sucks away the intriguing concept of an individual snapping from the fear of being unable to protect his family. It’s also not something I’m really interested in faulting the filmmakers for, because where they do take the story is still handled well, but the idea of an average Joe finding himself against a Russian criminal empire just for trying to do the right thing sounds far more tantalizing for this story and also a different kind of writing challenge for Derek Kolstad who is more or less just reworking John Wick here to be a bit more family-centric and cartoonish with its violence. There are also some of Ilya Naishuller’s own trademark touches, like a tracking shot following a tense tossing of a gun to another person during a chaotic struggle.
Speaking of Russian criminals, one of those men crippled on the bus happens to be the younger brother of the very powerful and influential Yulian (Russian star Alexey Serebryakov), a devoted collector of arts, enthusiastic singer (the soundtrack all around has a nice variety of modern tunes to excellent usage of Pat Benatar’s ‘Heartbreaker’ thematically and for excitement), and an ice-cold killer. Given his status and connections, it doesn’t take long for him and his band of career criminals to locate Hutch, endangering his whole family by association.
They trade blows to one another as we learn more about Hutch’s past, who at this point might as well be a sibling of John Wick. He has connections of his own to even the odds (acclaimed rapper RZA scores a triple headshot that will have you clapping in awe) and also booby-traps various buildings making way for some creatively gnarly deaths. Explosions feel like an untapped source for creative kills, and Nobody has some unforgettable tricks up its sleeve there.
The writing fails to make us care about whether this family will stay together or not (there are one or two dramatic scenes between Hutch and Becca that just don’t work), and no one really has anything to do aside from the men, although that’s the point. Even if I do have some qualms regarding glorifying the violence on display here and the questionable messaging that it’s the path to standing up for oneself and more fulfilling life, the film ditches any semblance of a character study it had. Nobody just gets more ludicrous as it goes along, with one rousing set piece after another consistently one-upping itself. Bob Odenkirk excels in the tough-guy role torn between restraining or indulging in violence. For the viewer, that choice is easier; celebrate the bloodbath that is Nobody.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com