“It’s fully committed and very well-made, making for a deliriously entertaining ride as it enthusiastically navigates its own absurdities.”
by Ken Bakely
This is, at the bottom of things, an extremely silly movie. Ilya Naishuller’s Nobody looks at the devices and tropes of vigilante fiction – the oft-unsavory implications of works that so excessively position their idealization of self-appointed violence as the ultimate means to an end, or the works that create infallible heroes from everyday men who feel a desire to become extremely violent – and plays it so consciously straight and with such extreme hyperbole that it loops back around and approaches its ideas with conscious incredulity. It’s fully committed and very well-made, making for a deliriously entertaining ride as it enthusiastically navigates its own absurdities. Bob Odenkirk stars as Hutch, to whom we’re introduced as an innocuous suburban dad whose life – with his wife, Becca (Connie Nielsen), son, Blake (Gage Munroe), and daughter, Sammy (Paisley Cadorath) – has fallen into comfortable but droll monotony. When two burglars rob his home, he demurs, letting them take what they want. It bruises his ego, and awakens the ghosts of a secret past career – that of a highly-trained and prolific assassin for the U.S. government. And whether he wants to or not, he’s soon fully back in the fold: after dusting off his skills to dispense with a gang who wreaks havoc on a bus he’s riding on, he soon discovers that one of their number is the brother of Yulian Kuztnetsov (Aleksei Serebryakov), a high-ranking Russian mobster who will unleash the full fury of his underground army on Hutch, with the latter seeking to evacuate his family as he plunges back into the life of violent mayhem he tried to leave behind.
From this setup, the movie embarks on a pretty predictable cycle, in which Naishuller and company throw waves of foes for Hutch to almost single-handedly mow down. Certainly, we don’t come to this movie expecting much more than that to begin with, but Nobody can falter when it tries to make itself about any more than that – interrogating the main characters can be a fruitless effort every time it tries, because of how clear it becomes that there’s not much material there to begin with – and it’s then when the film loses its rhythm a bit. But what the movie does well, it does very well, with good, sharp action sequences that deliver on their promises of cartoonishly bloody and pulpy fights, alongside the myriad of ways that Hutch seems to effortlessly escape death. It’s funny – and pretty clearly meant to be – that he is another one of those superhuman characters who does so with essentially no help at all, with the exception of the late introduction of his half-brother, Harry (RZA), who has previously advised him from his unseen perch on the other side of a radio communication, and his father, David (Christopher Lloyd), a seemingly frail nursing home resident who, like his son, turns out to have some hidden tricks still up his sleeve. But still, the central figure here is unambiguously Hutch, who approaches his final confrontation with Yulian with fatalistic determination.
He seems earnestly driven; what began as a drive to restore his reputation to himself has become a fight for his life in relatively few steps. A lesser actor might have taken this at face value and delivered a robotically direct performance, but Odenkirk moves far beyond this. Within Derek Kolstead’s deceptively straightforward script is a delicate balancing act, and Odenkirk excels at uncovering all the elements at play here. He takes the outward grit of an R-rated action hero and the conflict apparent within the character’s decisions to return to his past, blending this with the cautious, unspoken comedy of the whole ordeal. It’s a fascinating performance that fits the film’s specific tone perfectly. Nobody is grimly serious on a surface level, but in its deadpan audacity, is able to efficiently draw attention to the underlying emotions and unchecked fury that have driven the predecessors of its type and genre. It’s neither a work of parody or farce in full, but it communicates much through a disarmingly breezy style (and an hour-and-a-half runtime that’s just right for this material). Don’t take this seriously, and don’t take this character seriously, the movie seems to say. What is achieved from this foundation is a highly engaging display of operatic carnage, all with an intelligent sense of itself underneath.