2014’s “John Wick” heralded a renaissance of sorts for gritty rated-R action films. Proving to the world that there was still a market wide enough for dirty, blood-soaked rogues carving their way through cinema. Since then, we’ve seen blockbusters such as the likes of Charlize Theron’s “Atomic Blonde” to arthouse innovations such as “Upgrade”. Each auteur trying to leave their mark on the genre. It seems even comedian-actor Bob Odenkirk wants in on the action. He’s best known for his role as Saul Goodman on the phenomenal “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” series.
The man has amazing comedic timing and is one hell of a dramatic actor, there’s no question there. An action-hero star though? We had our reservations. Thankfully, we are happy to report that Odenkirk and company do not disappoint. Delivering on a thrilling, bullet-riddled hell of a time!
The plot of “Nobody” is most definitely not trying to reinvent the wheel here. The film follows the life of one Hutch Mansell. A retired auditor, code for badass super-operative, for some unknown organisation. He gave all of that up though so he could start a family. He’s settled into a fairly unremarkable domestic routine. That’s all broken upon his failure to defend his family in a house robbery one night. Now, he’s back to his old ways, to regain his honour and to exact vengeance upon those who wronged him. One thing leads to another and this ordinary nobody becomes the target of some very powerful men.
See, what we mean?
It’s right out of the playbook from films like “The Equalizer” and “Taken”. “Nobody” is more than aware of its generic premise and smartly plays it up for laughs. Writer Derek Kolstad, the man who penned the scripts for the “John Wick” trilogy, knows his way around the dormant-warrior trope by this time. He forsakes the need to go into lengthy exposition surrounding Hutch’s secret past. This isn’t “The Bourne Identity”, this is a loud, fun action movie and Kolstad knows it! In fact, there are moments in which the script pokes fun at the genre. Especially when Hutch’s attempt to monologue on his chequered past falls on deaf ears.
It certainly helps that the film’s pacing never skips a beat. It is relentless. In record time, it establishes the minimum amount of emotional weight and stakes needed before throwing us into Hutch’s first battle with a gang of thugs. Those accustomed of Wickian-style world-building may find this bare-bones approach to the film’s premise lazy and lacklustre. Well too bad, nerd! “Nobody” isn’t here to be narratively complex, it’s here to kick ass and take names. Which is exactly what it does.
Not unlike “John Wick”, the action in “Nobody” is nothing short of utterly visceral. It’s easy for action-films to phone it in and rely on slow-motion fight scenes and shaky-cam techniques to hide stuntmen. God forbid, they take a page out of the choppy, rapidly-edited fight scenes from the “Fast and the Furious” films. There’s none of that here. You get to see Odenkirk’s face in full view as he goes to town on wave after wave of Russian baddies coming his way.
Remember that bus scene in the trailer in which he faces down five thugs single-handedly. Believe us when we say that the fight choreography there is far more brutal and glorious than you can ever imagine. “Nobody” steers far away from the clean, untouchable male-empowerment fantasy for grounded, and frankly more engaging, street-level brawls. We’re talking broken teeth and snapped limbs. From then on, “Nobody” continues its momentum with a lethal combination of cathartic melees and satisfying gunplay.
That is until it reaches the obligatory big shoot-out. The third act is where the film falters with it abandoning its tight and nasty close-ups for a finale that’s a little more bombastic, if not explosive. We would have preferred a final confrontation with a tad more edge and intimacy. Perhaps a jaw-dropping knife fight or a winded stand-off. It attempts to make for it with a few neat siege-trap sequences but it overall feels devoid of any heft. That aside, “Nobody” does a great job in delivering the thrills and spills in the action department. Nonetheless, a promising start for a future franchise.
Without a doubt, Odenkirk’s performance as Hutch is the highlight of the entire film. He is the heart and muscle that holds this entire action-packed affair together. We’re still in utter disbelief at how Odenkirk went from playing dad-bod, sleazy lawyers to muscled-up badasses in the span of two years. It isn’t all aesthetics though. The man has put in the work and training in honing his skills as a proper stuntman as well. Most of the stunts and fights you see on-screen are his own, with minimal doubles. Odenkirk went through hell for us and it shows!
While his physical performance is impressive to say the least, the actor doesn’t quite embody the iconic stoicism of Liam Neeson or Denzel Washington. His attempts to do so at the beginning feel stiff but as time goes on, Odenkirk settles into a swagger that feels more natural. The bad guys here live only to be cannon fodder. Once again, the Eastern European / Russian crime organisation assumes the position. They are serviceable and do a decent enough job to propel the plot forward. Still, we can’t help but feel bad for Albanians and Russians.
Make no mistake, “Nobody” is here to make actor Bob Odenkirk look like a badass and we are utterly convinced. Incorporating the best of the new wave of stylistic gritty action films before it, “Nobody” proudly earns its spot among their ranks. It’s not quite the crème of the crop but the potential is certainly there. If you’re a fan of Keanu Reeves’ “John Wick” films, you owe it to yourself to give “Nobody” a watch. And who knows, we may just see Hutch and Mr Wick cross paths in a future film. You can now catch it at your local cinemas today!
So what do you think of “Nobody”? Are there any other comedians or actors you think have what it takes to become action stars? Be sure to let us know in the comments down below!
Make no mistake, “Nobody” is here to make actor Bob Odenkirk look like a badass and we are utterly convinced. Incorporating the best of the new wave of stylistic gritty action films before it, “Nobody” proudly earns its spot among their ranks.