Directed by: Ilya Naishuller
Premise: A suburban dad (Bob Odenkirk) with a secret past goes to war with a Russian mobster.
What Works: Nobody reworks a familiar scenario in which a group of criminals cross the wrong man and his vigilantism precipitates a much bigger conflict with an organized crime syndicate. We’ve seen this premise in films such as John Wick as well as the westerns of an earlier era. Nobody presents that same scenario with a few unique touches. For one, it casts Bob Odenkirk in the lead role. Odenkirk is not known for action but rather comedy and drama. The moviemakers use Odenkirk’s talents and insert a lot of humor but also humanity into the character and into the film which distinguishes Nobody from so many similar shoot-’em-up pictures. The filmmakers also take their time in getting to the violence. Much of the early portion of Nobody is about Odenkirk’s character living in a middle-class malaise. His marriage is sexless, his job is banal, and his son is disrespectful. But Odenkirk’s character has a violent past and a failed burglary reawakens his bloodlust. The violence isn’t an end in itself. This is the story of a man reclaiming his masculinity.
What Doesn’t: Nobody is split between shaking up the action movie formula and adhering to it. When the action starts, the family mostly gets shuffled aside. The film loses its most interesting thread, which is how Odenkirk’s character relates to his family. The picture doesn’t address how recovering his violent past might impact his relationship with wife and children and especially his son. Russian mobsters have become a default Hollywood heavy of late and the villains of Nobody are standard criminal characters. There’s little color or personality to them. The movie doesn’t afford any of the villains the same complexity and inner life allowed to Odenkirk’s character. Nobody concludes with a big shootout. This is the standard finale for a movie like this but so much of Nobody is about subverting expectations that it’s a disappoint to see Nobody turn into a generic action picture. The final set piece is done competently but it is average. The action films of recent years have emphasized creative set pieces but the end of Nobody is not competitive with the stunts of John Wick or Atomic Blonde or Free Fire.
DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, and commentary tracks.
Bottom Line: Nobody possesses enough that is unique to distinguish it from other shoot-’em-up action pictures and it mostly succeeds in satisfying the demands of its genre and adding a new flavor to it. It ultimately errs too much on the side of convention but the movie works as an offbeat action picture.
Episode: #866 (August 29, 2021)