Bob Odenkirk is latest over-fifty actor to get an “old guy kicks ass” movie, following in the footsteps of actors like Liam Neeson, Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner, Denzel Washington, and Keanu Reeves (you might not think Keanu counts, but he was 50 when he made John Wick) who have made these kinds of movies before, some turning them into franchises. Looking at the list of actors I just named, any of them getting an action movie at their older age isn’t too far out of their wheelhouse, as they have all had a previous history of action-focused films, whether being a martial arts master (Chan), a Darkman (Neeson), or James Bond (Brosnan).
Odenkirk does not have those roots. Known more for his career as a writer and comedian and most recently for his starring role in the television show Better Call Saul, Odenkirk is one of the least-likely candidates to play one of these older gentlemen who mows down mobs and henchmen. On paper, this might sound like a questionable idea, as there are a dozens of actors who have a stronger action background than Odenkirk who might seem more qualified for a movie of this nature.
But Odenkirk delivers on the challenge and then some. Nobody is an absolute blast. A quick, violent, funny film led by the outstanding performance by Odenkirk.
Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) lives a boring, redundant life. He wakes up, he goes for a jog, takes the bus to his factory job where he works for his wife’s (Connie Nielsen) father (Michael Ironside), visits his father (Christopher Lloyd), gets home, and goes to bed. His son resents him, and his marriage is loveless (they sleep with a pillow between themselves at night), but his daughter still thinks the world of him. Even with this, Hutch still loves his family more than anything in the world.
One night, two thieves break into Hutch’s home and Hutch declines to defend himself or his family, hoping to prevent serious violence. His son now thinks less of him and his wife is only growing further apart. The aftermath lights a spark inside Hutch, triggering dormant instincts and rage and propels him on a brutal path that will surface dark secrets and lethal skills.
Unlike other films within this genre like Taken, John Wick, November Man, and The Equalizer, all of which dealt more with revenge and getting a mission a done, Nobody is a mid-life crises movie that looks at a man who realizes he isn’t happy with the man that he has become and learns to become the person he truly is. The film constantly references “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”, and that is exactly what Hutch is. He is a man who has a dark military past. He says that he was an “auditor” in the military, which sounds like he dealt with numbers, but really meant that he was the last person anyone wanted to see on their doorstep. We never know exactly what Hutch exactly did, but we do know that his file at the Pentagon is labeled “Nobody” and is nearly all redacted. And when Hutch begins to explain what he did in the military, he is always telling the story to a victim he just inflicted copious amounts of violence upon and, in the funniest bit in the movie, the victim dies before Hutch can get into any further details. Hutch went from a terrifying military force to a boring suburban dad, a decision he made himself, but a decision that hid who he really was. The robbery lights a spark in him and then a brawl on a bus with five drunk bros turns the spark into a full blow fire. Throughout the movie, Hutch sheds his sheep’s clothing and becomes the wolf he was born to be.
Odenkirk gives a great performance as Hutch and gives arguably the best performance in this genre. He plays the unassuming, boring suburban husband perfectly, looking stressed, disheveled, and bored. You can see the emptiness in his eyes as all his days are the same and he is begging to find some purpose in his life. But you see Hutch’s eyes, body, and demeanor change as he begins to become a human wrecking ball and realizes he is truly happiest with who he used to be and not the man he has become. Odenkirk also shows that the physicality piece was no issue for him, as his fight moves are fluid and realistic.
The fight scenes themselves are thrilling, bone-cracking, explosive set pieces. The choreography of the scenes isn’t anything complicated, yet very effective and exciting. The cinematography by Pawel Pogorzelski is one of the strongest aspects of the film. It’s stylish, crisp, and, along with some terrific editing, makes the fight sequences look great and doesn’t give us the nauseating shaky camera we’ve seen in other films like these. The final battle is filled with a barrage of bullets, blood and mayhem and it’s awesome in every way.
Led by a great lead performance by Bob Odenkirk, incredible action, a great aesthetic, and a simple story, Nobody is the first great action movie of 2021.
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