A film like Nobody is inevitably going to be likened to similarly-themed actioners such as John Wick and Taken. And that’s not a bad thing, given how well-liked those films are (or, in the context of Taken, at least the first one), with the middle-aged-man-defending-what’s-rightfully-his narrative proving an easy sell. Nobody is perhaps the easiest of them all, but it isn’t taking itself too seriously, adopting just enough of a sense of humour that it gets away with the ultimately lunacy it descends into.
Bob Odenkirk – the unlikeliest of action stars – is the titular “nobody”, a not-so-happily married man who’s stuck in the most mundane of routines in both his personal and professional life. The monotony of his life is made all the more amusing as we see this unfold after the film’s opening presents us with said nobody – actually named Hutch Mansell – sitting in an interrogation room, covered in blood and bruises, evidently far more capable of defending himself than his spreadsheet-filing desk job would suggest.
This battered imagery is also wildly at odds with the film’s first major narrative hook where Hutch and his family – Connie Nielsen stars as his disinterested wife – have their home broken into. The burglars aren’t going to find much to steal, but it’s the fact that Hutch has the upper-hand at a crucial moment that sets him upon his path of eventual violence; despite the opportunity to save the day, he opts for peace and lets the intruders go, essentially emasculating himself in front of his family in the process.
This sense of helplessness won’t last long though, and it’s when Hutch decides to play detective and track down those that broke into his home – and stole his daughter’s kitty cat bracelet too (this being a fine source of the film’s sense of humour) – that the Derek Kolstad-penned script (the scribe having experience, with all three John Wick films on his resume) hints at just who this alleged nobody is. “Thank you for your service”, is what one rough tattooist says before running away from Hutch and locking himself in a secured room in one of Nobody‘s pivotal scenes, laying the foundation that this nobody is truly somebody. Be afraid. be very afraid.
What easily could have been presented as parody – a one vs five standoff fight sequence on a bus toes the line between its comedic and carnage-driven temperament – manages to sustain itself as an actioner with a wonderful sense of humour, which gives Nobody the elevation it needs in order to stand-out in a genre that readily pitches film of this ilk with rapid succession.
It certainly helps Nobody‘s design that someone like Odenkirk is leading the charge, furthering the film’s relatable nature in the face of the most outlandish plot due to the fact that he’s not physically imposing and is better known for his works in both comedic and dramatic fare. You can see his sly winks to the audience present themselves every so often, selling this preposterous action flick that knows all too well how intelligent it needs to be in order to execute such a mindless idea.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Nobody is screening in Australian theatres from April 1st, 2021