In hindsight, it’s easy to see just how influential the John Wick movies have been on the action genre. While the concept of the films, one unstoppable badass versus an armada of goons, is nothing new, John Wick introduced a level of brutality that felt fresh. The franchise was able to marry excellent fight choreography and grim violence, but present it in such a way where you never felt like it was excessive. It manages to be entertaining and a riot without ever stepping outside the realm of good taste. After watching Nobody, it’s clear that it takes several, if not all of its cues, from John Wick.
That’s not entirely by accident by the way. Derek Kolstad, the writer of all three John Wick films, also wrote the script for this film, while David Leitch, the co-director of the original film, produced this film as well (John Stahelski was busy elsewhere). It’s basically a reunion of a lot of talent from John Wick, just in a suburban setting. It also simplifies things incredibly compared to its spiritual brother, but that’s neither good nor bad honestly. It’s just different.
Director: Ilya Naishuller
Release Date: March 26, 2021 (Theatrical)
Hutch (Bob Odenkirk) is a family man who lives a fairly humble life. He works a 9-5, tries to be a good father to his two kids, and generally just lives an average, unimpressive life. However, a home invasion drives a rift between him and his family, and when he believes his daughter’s “kitty-cat” bracelet has been stolen, he enacts sweet vengeance on all involved, eventually spiraling out of control to the point where the Russian mob gets involved. Then all hell breaks loose and the blood will flow.
I think what was so stand-out about this film is that the first third of the movie is especially dour. We hear about how Hutch’s family thinks very little of him, his co-workers all make Hutch out to be a putz, and most of the movie is framed as being a fairly bleak affair. When Hutch confronts the people responsible for the home invasion, it’s less watching our hero enact sweet vengeance on criminals and more like a sociopath having an excuse to cause as much damage as possible.
And that’s a special distinction that Bob Odenkirk is able to bring to the role. He could have been a fairly no-nonsense killer who only kills because he has to, but there’s a certain level of glee he exudes when he’s brawling, shooting, maiming, and committing all sorts of outrageous violence. He’ll frequently explain his backstory to people seconds before they’re about to die, only to realize that they’ve died long before he even finished. The only comment he makes half the time is that he needs to find a better way to sum up his life story so they can hear it all before they die.
This is much more of a dark comedy than I initially expected. Usually, excitement and hilarity will come from just how over-the-top some fight scenes are. I think back to watching John Wick: Chapter 3 and seeing John just flail knives at his pursuers and have a horse kick a man to death. They were so excessive it was impossible not to laugh, and while Nobody definitely has those moments, there were also a lot more traditional jokes. Visual gags, one-liners, and wacky musical numbers thanks to our villain Yulian (Aleksei Serebryakov) all help to make this a more lively affair once the first act concludes.
Once you’re able to get through the admittingly slow first act, the movie refuses to stop at any moment. Not a scene goes by without some action that results in a handful of deaths. It’s all paced well, but several of the fight scenes feel very underdeveloped from a narrative perspective. Violence is fun to watch, but unless there’s a logical reason for the carnage, it can feel muddy and hard to follow, which is unfortunately Nobody’s biggest problem.
The plot feels horribly underdeveloped, with Bob Odenkirk oftentimes narrating his backstory instead of us actually seeing it. One of the big motivating factors for our Yulian is his relationship to the Russian Mafia’s secret bank, but it always just feels like some outside element that never factors heavily into the plot. In fact, the impetus for Hutch and Yulian colliding is a fairly weak one, one that feels blatant in its attempt to justify the action that is to follow.
The world-building in Nobody also feels pretty weak with the viewer never fully understanding just what’s really going on under the surface. Hutch has a half-brother he talks to only through the radio, but we don’t really learn much about him or why he’s only on the radio. There’s a shadowy government figure who just kind of appears to give Hutch information. A guy is freaked out at Hutch’s tattoo early in the movie but we never find out why. There are just a lot of unanswered questions by the end but I don’t have the drive whatsoever to learn more about them.
I will say that I do like the relationship between Hutch and his wife Becca (Connie Nielsen). Unlike in most action movies where the revelation of Hutch’s true persona would drive her and the family away from him as he descends down his dark and violent path, she’s entirely supportive of him. She still loves him and wants him to protect their family. There’s a level of trust that you can feel between the two of them. Sure, it is undermined somewhat but just how long they’ve known each other as the timelines between when Hutch met her and when he decided to settle down is murky, but the positives outweigh the negatives.
And that’s really the best way to sum up Nobody; sure, the flaws are fairly obvious and noticeable, but it didn’t stop me from having a good time. It’s a brisk 92 minutes and won’t really leave too much of an impact, but it’s a fun and morbid action movie that delivers on the action. Its plot may be shaky and doesn’t feel as developed as it could be, but an action movie should thrill you and satisfying you with the spectacle it puts on. In that regard, Nobody succeeds. I had fun, and you will too.