Bob Odenkirk is a tremendous actor, as we’ve seen in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. He’s a fan favourite, and it’s easy to see why; his charisma and “everyman” quality has immense appeal, which is probably the reason he was cast to lead Nobody, an action thriller about a man seeking revenge.
Where have we seen this kind of storyline before? OK, a lot of places, but recently? It was 2014 smash-hit John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves, which followed the story of his seeking retribution after mobsters kill his puppy, the last gift from his dead wife. From there, things cascade into non-stop fighting and action, as Wick exerts all of his energy into taking down the baddies who upended his life. This went on for three full-length motion pictures, and yes, a John Wick: Chapter 4 is coming!
We see much of the same storyline here in Nobody, except we’ve moved to suburbia and done away with any of the black-trenchcoat badassery of John Wick. Odenkirk, as Hutch Mansell (who chose that name?), is a father and husband to a family that is remarkably OK with his activities. Replace Wick’s dead puppy with Mansell’s daughter’s “kitty cat bracelet” as impetus for violence, and there you have it.
A bracelet? That’s why he goes on a spree of violence?
Yes, as highlighted in the trailer, it’s why Mansell goes on his bout of revenge: in a bungled home robbery, a pair of thieves supposedly steal the bracelet from his family home and reignite Mansell’s taste for action. What the trailer doesn’t tell you is that this is just the beginning; the bracelet is merely the tip of the iceberg, and the movie goes on for another hour (or more) as he takes down anyone who gets in his way. To be frank, it’s a lot, and you may ask yourself why this many people have to die or be severely injured for one man’s perceived wrongs, especially for a bracelet.
Somehow, John Wick managed to tell this same story but also build a world around Wick. It made sense, and was understandable, that Wick went on his mission. He’s a renowned fighter, has no family or loved ones to speak of, and fits into that “superhero”-type mould. With Mansell, it’s tough to get on his side. Obviously, you still root for him as he’s the protagonist of the movie, but you wonder why a man with a family is continually picking fights with large, strange men on public transit and elsewhere… and winning.
There is a slight satirical bent throughout, which helps explain the tone of the movie, and a blaring, ironic soundtrack meant to highlight its absurdity.
But the action is good?
There’s no doubt that if violence and fight sequences are your thing, you’ll be pleased with Nobody and have a great time. The aforementioned fight scene on a bus is arguably the piece de resistance of the film, with amazing choreography and flow. By this time in the movie, Mansell’s appetite for violence is whetted, and this is the first of many takedowns.
More takedowns? All over a bracelet?
We’re told, as the story goes, that Mansell is very protective of his family. They even have a “safe room” in their home, as it seems that he’s engaged in this type of behaviour before. We eventually discover — spoiler alert — that he used to be a government assassin. The bracelet thing goes as quickly as it came, with the focus shifted instead to a group of Russian mobsters tenuously tied to a gravely injured man from the bus fight. The “bad guys” go after Mansell, he goes after them in turn. It’s all things you’ve seen before.
In a sense, the movie is an exercise in machismo. Mansell, made to feel like a weakling and potentially “responsible” for violence against his family, can find no alternative solution but to go beat up (and kill) a bunch of people himself. When John Wick does it, it feels justified. When Mansell does it, it feels unnecessary and extreme. Also, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it felt almost tone-deaf to release a movie filled end-to-end with people getting beaten and/or killed in horrific ways.
Based on the ending, which we won’t spoil here, it looks like there may even be some sequels lined up if this does well at the COVID-19-ravaged box office.
So what’s the bottom line?
A John Wick minus the world-building, Nobody is a collection of high-octane action and fight scenes, but very little else. Don’t go looking for plot or substance, because there isn’t much here. This movie is all about the blood and guts, with very little heart.
‘Nobody’ opens in theatres, where possible, across Canada on March 26.