Review : Nobody (2021)
I am happy to report that I was an early passenger on the Bob Odenkirk train. Since my college days of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, I discovered and developed a deep love for Mr. Show with Bob and David, an iconic HBO sketch comedy show unlike any other before it or sense, despite being a whip smart sendup and satire of the genre. If that’s all that Bob Odenkirk were ever known for, the world would benefit, but like lightning striking twice, Odenkirk showed equal depth in the dramatic realm with his scene stealing portrayal of Saul in the instant classic series Breaking Bad, which later resulted in Better Call Saul, a spinoff show centered around his character. While Odenkirk is as familiar with the world of film as he is television, he had yet to have a lead role in a blockbuster-level film, but all of that changed when Hardcore Henry creator Ilya Naishuller and John Wick creator Derek Kolstad tapped him for Nobody.
From the onset, comparisons to films like Death Wish are inevitable, but Nobody stays fresh by ironically infusing elements of films like Taken and John Wick into the classic mixture. For example, while Charles Bronson’s Paul Kersey was an architect driven to vigilante justice by a horrific act of violence against his family, Hutch Mansell fits into the lineage of characters like John Wick and Bryan Mills due to his self-imposed retirement from a role as a living and breathing weapon. Unlike Wick and Mills, however, Mansell manages to ground himself heavily in a sense of humanity in terms of both character and skill set : where Wick and Mills are always cool, calm, calculated and near infallible in combat, Mansell embraces his doubts, makes errors in judgement, and most importantly, is not bulletproof or impervious to punches and kicks. Mansell also differs because the initial intrusion into his home merely becomes a stepping stone up a ladder of more and more dangerous foes, while Wick and Mills, for the most part, have very direct line missions.
Perhaps the most important and surprising aspect of Nobody, in my opinion, is its philosophical nature and its deep examination of humanity. Mansell stands as an abstract and exploded illustration of how a man must learn to compromise his true nature for the sake of those he loves, is responsible for and protective of, even if this means muting his true nature in order to bring peace to his world. When the tables turn, a parable is laid out about how one can overcorrect in the name of compensation, and how that can often bring more grief to you than it does satisfaction or fulfillment. It could be easy to simply paint Mansell as a shell of a man and set him up against Yulian Kuznetsov as a personification of one living his dreams and desires to the maximum level, but each character is given the blessing of complexity and nuance that abstractly mirrors the two in the sense that they play opposite sides of the personal restraint coin in the hopes of finding approval and personal benefit through others.
Nobody does an immaculate job of combining Naishuller’s knack for intense but realistic action, long takes and cameras that roam the world freely with Kolstad’s ability to build multilayered underground worlds rich with character, nuance and built-in lore. The film also resembles John Wick in the way that it has vivid flourishes of color to separate the darker, moodier movements of the film. The editing is kinetic and expressive, managing to capture the mundane aspects of Hutch Mansell’s life and the buildup to his Murphy’s Law-laden showdown without losing its overall tone or momentum. The film is heavily score-driven with a 1980’s style rock and roll action feel, which plays well against the more classic, timeless choices for soundtrack cues. The film also manages to balloon outward into a handful of different locations quickly without us losing a sense of the world that Hutch Mansell inhabits, which runs parallel to the very sparsely doled out information about his past.
Bob Odenkirk’s ability to play both honest and dark makes him perfect for the role of Hutch Mansell, as his innate human nature shines through in both his unconditional love for his family and his clear-cut ability to inflict damage. Aleksei Serebryakov serves as a perfect unwilling foil to Odenkirk’s Hutch, with his over the top brashness and flamboyant manner standing as a polar character opposite, and his only similarity being his equal ability to rain damage on all he surveys. Connie Nielsen, Gage Monroe and Paisley Cadorath all help drive home the impression of Hutch Mansell as a muted husband by displaying bolder character aspects without ever drowning out Odenkirk’s shine. Christopher Lloyd and Michael Ironside, much like Odenkirk and Serebryakov, display opposite characteristics of strong father figures, with Lloyd’s support and understanding matching Ironside’s disdain and lack of respect. Ironside’s character display is mirrored and enhanced by the performance of Billy MacLellan, who echoes Ironside with much less nuance. Rza, Colin Salmon, Araya Mengehsa, Aleksandr Pal, J.P. Manoux, Daniel Bernhardt and many more lend their talents to this incredibly memorable film.
Nobody is one of those wonderful occurrences where the anticipation of a film is met and exceeded by the experience. It is wholly fulfilling seeing someone you’ve cheered on for 20-ish years spread their wings and soar, and even more so when the masses recognize the talent and buy in as well. My only regret is that this film found itself a victim of the COVID-19 wake in the sense that movie theaters have not fully reestablished themselves, so many people will be robbed of the opportunity to see this film on a big screen, at least during the first run. You can count on the fact, however, that once this film finds its way back to theaters, my money is as good as spent.