Let me just say, first of all, that I was all kinds of hype for this movie. An action movie starring one of the most versatile comedians alive written by the guy that created John Wick? There is a God.
Nobody, (directed by Ilya Naishuller of Hardcore Henry…fame? It’s on his resume, anyway) stars Bob Odenkirk as Hutch Mansell, a real-person name if ever I heard one. Hutch is a mild-mannered family man, apparently satisfied with his suburban home, stable job, and wife/two kids, until one night a pair of robbers invade his house. He has a chance to hit one of them with a golf club and gain the upper hand, but instead chooses to let the thieves get away. The resulting disappointment of his family kicks off a rampage that is almost beat-for-beat the same as John Wick, up to and including a blood feud started by a chance encounter with a well-connected Russian thug and a series of people peace-ing out of the movie altogether when they learn Hutch’s real identity.
This movie desperately wants to be a comedy, and yet for some reason insists on being played completely straight. That’s upsetting to me, because our good guy is Saul Goodman and our bad guy is a Russian mob boss who makes everyone at his club watch him perform karaoke. All comedic fruit from that situation is low-hanging, but Nobody doesn’t want to share any of its harvest, I guess.
That’s a problem for two reasons: 1) it’s boring to watch a joke that’s all set-up and no punchline, and 2) it makes the story as a whole almost entirely meaningless.
Action movies are all power fantasies to an extent, but start to finish, Nobody is pure suburban white guy fantasy. And that’s fine, but like, I really don’t care to see the dreams of your weird neighbor Travis performed in my local theater. I genuinely half-expected the movie to flash to white at the climax and reveal that the entire story was just the fevered imagining of Hutch in the moment before he decides not to hit the intruder with the golf club.
There’s a joke at the center of John Wick that cuts that franchise’s seriousness down to digestible levels: “if you had just left this guy alone with his puppy, none of this would have happened.” John Wick has nothing to lose, and it’s darkly funny to watch his tormenters get their comeuppance from Keanu Reeves’ haunted force-of-nature overreaction.
By contrast, Hutch Mansell has all sorts of things to lose, so it’s weird to watch him essentially invite the violence of the criminal underworld upon his family, especially when protecting his family from intrusion was supposed to be the point to begin with. The things Hutch is doing are so avoidable and yet so traumatic to himself and others compared to his relatively cheerful home life that watching him casually blow up his family’s house seems more maniacal than sacrificial.
Bob Odenkirk is the only notable thing here. He makes a very believable everyman and, delightfully, a very believable action star at the same time. Everything around him, though, is so mundane that I’m almost unwilling to give Nobody any credit for Bob Odenkirk’s performance. Odenkirk is such a good actor both comedic and dramatic that to not have him go through any character arc at all is a really weird choice given how much I’m sure they paid to have him be there.
The conceit of “comically normal family man returns to his old job of kicking ass” seems like it should offer something new, but instead it’s just John Wick, so why don’t I just go watch John Wick instead?
5/10, 3 for Bob Odenkirk, 2 for good action choreography that nevertheless looks like fights cut for time from John Wick. Minus several points for too many slow-motion action scenes ironically set to 60s lounge music, which you get to use exactly once per movie before it gets old.