Review: 'Nobody' is Nothing but Bloody Fun

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday June 8, 2021

'Nobody'  (Source:Universal)

Random creeps pick the wrong guy in Ilya Naishuller's tongue-in-pummeled-cheek actioner "Nobody."

If that brief description sounds like a formula for a thousand thrillers — well, it is, most notably the "John Wick" movies, whose blend of fisticuffs and fun Naishuller and screenwriter Derek Kolstad are looking to emulate. Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) is the title character: A plodding drone whose suburban existence is dreary cycle of work, disengaged domesticity, and a habit of always missing the early-morning trash truck. Hutch's days run together with such uniformity that Naishuller doesn't even bother to re-stage the various sequences that make up the illustrative montage; he simply uses the same footage over and over again. It's a cheeky ploy, and it works.

Things change when a couple of nervous housebreakers intrude on Hutch and his family one night. As his teenage son (Gage Munroe) wrestles with one goon, Hutch is ready — and willing — to smash the other's head in with a golf club. But he suddenly pulls back and tells his son to stand down; the thieves get away with a watch and a literal fistful of dollars — small notes plucked from a bowl.

They also take whatever respect Hutch's wife Becca (Connie Nielsen) and son Blake might have had for him — which is not a lot to start with. Their demeanor toward Hutch becomes icy, and a little pitying. Worse still are the responses from a cocky next-door neighbor and Hutch's in-laws, with whom he works as an accountant at the business run by Becca's father.

For reasons of his own, Hutch is willing to swallow all that humiliation. But when his young daughter (Paisley Cadorath) reports that her "kitty-cat bracelet" — which was in the same bowl as the loose change — has gone missing, that's an insult to his family Hutch will not countenance. Casting off his meek persona, he allows his true nature to emerge: An experienced fighter, and former government "auditor" (that is to say, assassin) who's been trying his best all these years to live under the radar.

But now it's ass-kicking time. The film swiftly transforms into a quick-moving series of set pieces that steadily escalate in brutality and body counts. Tracking down the thieves proves easy, but it also leads to a confrontation with a pack of drunken young sociopaths on a city bus. Cue the one-against-five mixed martial arts action, plus a couple of knives for good measure... and then add in the film's big bad, a Russian mobster named Yulian (Alexey Serebryakov) who has an army of cold-blooded killers at his command.

How and why Yulian becomes embroiled in a vendetta against Hutch is immaterial; indeed, most of the film is immaterial, serving only to carry the story from one high-octane dustup to the next, though there are moments along the way (such as a running gag in which Hutch's attempts at heartfelt killer-to-killer conversations keep coming to unsatisfying ends, interrupted by the listeners succumbing to whatever mortal wounds he's dealt them). Suffice to say, Yulian may have countless minions to throw into the path of Hutch's guns, fists, and grenades, but Hutch has got his own little army, too... including his father, a retired FBI agent who lives in a rest home but, like Hutch, proves unflappable — no, gleeful — when he's staring down the barrel of a gun or two. Or twenty. It only helps that Hutch's dad is played by Christopher Lloyd, who hasn't had a role this juicy in far too long. "I've missed this shit!" Dad exclaims in the middle of one firefight, and the only possible response from the audience is: We have, too.

Casting Odenkirk in the role of Hutch feels like the right move, although for the wrong reasons. What you expect is Saul Goodman from "Breaking Bad," a combination of sleaze, ruthlessness, and integrity. What you get here, though, is somewhat different: Hutch is amiable amoral; that's a little different than the compromised moral complexity of Saul Goodman, and if audiences might be a little confused, Odenkirk, too, seems a little uncertain, from time to time, about what to do with his character.

Those moments are washed away soon enough in the unending (and increasingly improbable) clashes between Hutch and Yulian. That's fine. Coming out of a long winter of COVID discontent, it might be all we're prepared to handle. "Nobody" is loud, it's fun, and it's just this side of mindless.

Still, it must be said: For all the pyrotechnics and mindless action tropes the movie stuffs into its hour and a half run time, "Nobody" can't hold a candle to Wick.

"Nobody" comes to digital June 8.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.