Cast: Bob Odenkirk Connie Nielsen Aleksei Serebryakov RZA Michael Ironside. Directed by Ilya Naishuller.
The ever-growing desire for various movie universes is one that will probably carry on forever, and among them could be Derek Kolstad’s world of assassins and secret communities with John Wick. If his latest scripted film Nobody joins the franchise, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Nobody follows Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk), a man in a rut after his house is robbed and he decides not to exact revenge on the couple that rob it. In the aftermath, the incident awakens in him, and brings back the man he used to be – much to the ire of a Russian mobster.
Bob Odenkirk might be best known as shady tragi-comic lawyer Jimmy “Saul Goodman” McGill in Vince Gilligan shows Breaking Bad and prequel Better Call Saul, where he has shown both his comic chops and a good dose of drama, but he’s not yet shown an affinity for action. That changes now.
The film has the same kind of “oh basic stuff then” set up as the original John Wick did. But what sets Nobody apart is some very funny writing, a game turn from a lead and a director having a blast. Director Ilya Naishuller made his debut with first-person action movie Hardcore Henry which was a great gimmick but narratively weak. Given a strong script from Kolstad, his style comes through.
But Nobody isn’t just John Wick with Saul Goodman in the lead, it’s a different film with different action. Naishuller opts for a looser action style than Chad Stahelski (and David Leitch) did with John Wick, and it’s not the heroic bloodshed film that called to mind the work of John Woo. The film does have hints of the Wick-verse in it, not least when Colin Salmon shows up as the enigmatically named The Barber shows up for a scene of exposition, but it’s done with a lot of joy.
But there are no action scenes that play out like a ballet of bullets here, and definitely no ‘gun-fu’. Instead, Odenkirk’s Hutch is a bit more of a sloppier fighter, and he gets a fair amount of crap knocked out of him on his rampage of revenge. The film’s first big action sequence sees Odenkirk on a bus having a showdown with five baddies, which is both gleefully violent and a mission statement.
The thing with Nobody is its humour, it’s cheeky, it’s a film that has a glee in its violence. Punctuating certain kills with a fun jazz riff or a punchline, the action may not be as elegant but it’s punchy and fun to watch. Odenkirk gets the measure of his role, he knows he’s about to spew silly dialogue like “give me the fucking kitty-cat bracelet!” and he clearly enjoys it. Around him, the cast is game for a laugh, Connie Nielsen as his wife who knows of his former life and somewhat misses the man he was is an interesting route to take, while RZA and Christopher Lloyd show up to essentially suppress laughter for a third act brawl.
The film only really falls down because the villain is somewhat weak. Aleksei Serebryakov is good and has fun as the mentally unhinged mob boss Yulian Kuznetsov but despite his cabaret singing and flamboyant dress since there’s nothing about him that sets him up as a truly formidable villain. Seeing him in the final showdown should feel more menacing than it does, but it ultimately feels a little anticlimactic.
Even so, the film’s fun tone and no-nonsense attitude cannot be faulted, and those looking for basic thrills will get exactly what they want here, with a surprise dose of ass-kicking from the man who previously proclaimed “My little women”.