Nobody (2021), an Exhilerating albeit Flawed Experience

Nobody was a sleeper hit in the making from the very start. When the announcement dropped that Bob Odenkirk signed on to work with the Director of Hardcore Henry with the creator of John Wick penning the screenplay my excitement for the film was immense. It felt like it was not too long after I first heard about the project that the trailer dropped and by this point I was completely sold. Then before I knew it I checked to see what was playing at the cinema and sure enough there was a preview screening for Nobody.

Needless to say I had a lot of fun with Nobody, it scratched that action itch that few mainstream action films manage to these days, it feels like a return to pure action films rather than the genre-spanning blockbusters we’re used to seeing. Maybe I’m biased because I haven’t seen the John Wick films yet but because of that it felt like I hadn’t seen a recent action like this in a long time. While the premise is pretty bare bones, Bob Odenkirk plays an average middle class father, who after becoming mocked by the neighbourhood for his failure to act during a break-in at his house, reveals that he is a former “Auditor”, a job described as “the last guys [the FBI/CIA] wanted to see”, essentially a cut-throat, expert killing machine, and after taking out his pent-up frustrations on a group of unruly young men on a bus becomes the target of the Russian Mob. Now admittedly I don’t think many people went into this film for the plot, it feels a bit contrived and juvenile but honestly that’s fine. The plot doesn’t need to be complex or brand new because the focus of the film is purely on the spectacle of the show. 

The main focus of the film, and rightfully so, is the action. After all this is from the mind of Derek Kolstad whose John Wick films have arguably ushered in a new era for modern action films. And the action is all there, it’s wonderfully choreographed, the editing is tight and the use of blood and effects adds a wonderful frenetic energy, especially in the climactic shoot-out. The star of the film is easily Odenkirk, whose unassuming physique and typical charm not only demonstrates his prowess as a leading action star but also feels like a call-back to the blue-collar action heroes in the era of Die Hard, something that is especially apparent given the contrast between Odenkirk’s contemporary leading men. Odenkirk’s questionable presence in the film worked into the script, with Hutch’s character meant to be a completely unassuming individual, allowing for a nice blur between the opening of the film and the eventual action sequences.

In terms of the supporting cast, the film is arguably shallow. Aside from two terrific performances by Christopher Lloyd, as Hutch’s elderly father and retired FBI agent, and Aleksei Serebryakov, who plays the antagonist, both of whom are an absolute joy to watch and steal the show in their respective scenes. However, outside of these three men, the supporting cast is essentially non-existent. Connie Nielson plays Hutch’s wife, but despite an admirable performance the film offers nothing in terms of substance to make her memorable. When I saw RZA in the credits I was excited as a Wu-Tang fan as I hadn’t realised he was in the film but as the credits rolled I had to do a double take to try and remember when he turned up, and once it clicked his character (or should I saw his voice) have a couple of nice scenes with Odenkirk but even once he’s introduced in person he’s largely absent from the action apart from a one cool shoot-out scene. It is a shame that there’s not a fully fleshed out supporting cast, but as mentioned above the film’s plot is clearly on the backburner as a vehicle for the action scenes.

I mentioned the two good performances by Lloyd and Serebryakov, and I really can’t understate these. As a massive fan of Back to the Future it was such a joy to see Lloyd back on the big screen and having a lot of fun with his role (not that he hasn’t been working it’s just been ages since I’ve seen him in anything). There’s a moment in the care home (if you’ve seen the film you’ll know which I’m talking about) which had me chuckling with a massive grin on my face. Similarly Serebryakov, who I haven’t seen in a film before, plays a tremendous villain, balancing flamboyancy with a sinister violence lurking beneath the surface, he manages to turn up the intensity in any scene before breaking the tension with perfect levity at the drop of a pin. While Odenkirk has more than proved himself as a comedic actor, seeing him take the more dry witty approach to the outward humour of Serebryakov’s Yulian creates a wonderful chemistry that easily translates into anger and bitterness. On a narrative point too, one aspect of the script that really impressed me was how Hutch and Yulian are mirrored, both stuck in their work with passion or drive wishing for a different life that they once knew, it’s subtle at first but by the climax the juxtaposition is clear and handled very cleverly.

I wrote as a letterboxd review for this film that I couldn’t remember the last time I walked out of a film instantly wanting a sequel, but I truly did with Nobody. The premise is simple enough to set-up a new adventure for Hutch, the focus on action allows for an entertaining and not too taxing watch while the script shows glimpses of greatness that could elevate a sequel to even higher acclaim. While I’ve been praising this film heavily it should be noted that I don’t love this film, I think there are plenty of weak spots both visually and in the script, but besides all that the film was simply a lot of fun. My concerns about the cinematography, or choppy editing fell by the wayside as I grinned at Odenkirk battling thugs with an unearthed passion aboard a bus. While this may not be revered as a classic, I know next time I meet up with my buddies we’ll be cracking open a cold one and watching Saul Goodman fight his way through the Russian mob.

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