Nobody (2021) Review
ME….. I’M NOBODY
The film genre of the action variety has seeing a plethora of various narratives being told that boasts plenty of action sequences that cater to the fascinations of brawling, fighting, and vigilante style grit. Within this genre is the subgenre-esque narrative constructs of a “one man army”; a tale of a person so lethal, dangerous, and efficient that they are able to dispatch an insane number of bad guys, beating the odds, and emerge mostly victorious by the time the film ends. These particular endeavors, which linger within the cinematic fictional realm, has mass appeal, with many flocking to see such production throughout the decades and captivating viewers with its ridiculous nature of action and violence. Such prime examples of this vigilantly action escapades include such films like Kill Bill: Volume I and II, the Die Hard franchise, the James Bond franchise, the Jason Bourne franchise, and the John Wick Franchise just to name a few. Now, Universal Pictures and director Ilya Naishuller present the latest film within this action subgenre with the release of the movie titled Nobody. Does the feature find a memorable hit within its “over-the-top” action or is it just another “run-of-the-mill” endeavor that amounts to nothing?
Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) is stuck in a rut. He’s a defeated “average joe” man that is living in a grinding routine of normalcy, working at a automobile manufacturing company by day and living as a father to his two children, Blake (Gage Munroe) and Abby (Paisley Cadorath), and husband to realtor Becca (Connie Nielsen) at night. Longing to break free of this normalcy, Hutch’s final straw comes when a home invasion comes for his family, he can’t back, and leaves the middle age man emasculated and frustrated. Reaching a boiling point and as son of a now retired FBI agent, David (Christopher Llyod) and surrounded by reminders of his failure, Hutch finally decides to push back, aiming to reclaim what was lost when a group of drunken thugs start harassing a teenage girl during a bus ride. Destroying the goons, Hutch fights back and unleashes his shadowy past as hitman, but one of the thugs happens to be the little brother of Yulian (Aleksey Serebryakov), a powerful Russian mobster currently in charge of warehouse-filling fortune in criminal money. Seeking revenge for Hutch’s violence, Yulian awakens the suburban warrior’s dark side, igniting a war of escalation between the two men.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I will admit that the action film genre is one of my favorites. Well, I wouldn’t say it is my personal all-time favorite film genre out there, but it is definitely within my top three. As I mentioned above, the whole “one man army” narrative aspect is (to me) quite enjoyable; displaying that mindless yet entertaining yarn of that “over-the-top” ridiculousness. Yes, sometimes these types of movies can be a bit campy at times and totally unbelievable a few scenarios and sequences, but that is that type of action escapism that I am looking for. At least to my knowledge, the whole “one man army” subgenre began back in the 80s, which was fine, but really did shine in a lot of action movies during the 90s; a time where action films true made their mark on that entire decade. Even still, these movies have bleed into cinematic narrative well into the 2000s / 2010s era of motion pictures, with film project still being made to this day. All in all, whether you love them or not, the vigilante / one-man army are here to stay and (if you let them be) can be a whole lot of fun for some mindless popcorn action entertainment.
This brings me back to talking about Nobody, a 2021 action thriller feature and the latest endeavor within this vigilante “one man army” variety. After the release of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, I (like many) was looking forward to seeing the next entry in the series. Of course, the road to seeing John Wick: Chapter 4 is a bit away. Thus, I turned to this particular movie, which I did hear every now and again on the various movie websites that I frequently visit. I’ve seeing the movie trailer for Nobody quite often as the preview is frequently played throughout the late 2020 / early 2021 season when I go to my local movie theater for my weekly “movie time” trip. From the trailer alone, it looked like it was going to be something similar to the John Wick movies, but less stylish and more self-aware of its premise. Still, for what it was worth, Nobody definitely had my interest. I did, however, didn’t immediately go to my movie theater when it was first released as I was a bit busy with my schedule. So, I decided to wait a couple of weeks after to check out this action movie. And what did I think of it? To be honest, it was fun movie. Despite lacking substance in its plot and characters, Nobody is mindless yet entertaining vigilante action romp that’s fun and worth checking out. It’s not the best vigilante “one man army” endeavor of late, but its still worth the price of admission.
Nobody is directed by Ilya Naishuller, who previous directed several video shorts (The Medic, The Weekend: False Alarm, and Biting Elbows: For the Kill) as well as the feature film Hardcore Henry in 2015. What’s perhaps the most interesting aspect of Naishuller’s directing this project is the simply fact that it is his second directorial project for a motion picture. Hardcore Henry was kind of an experimental type movie; showcasing some unique shots / sequences within its cinematic undertaking, but being a bit wonky at times. Thus, in terms of directing ability, Naishuller actually does a better job in handling Nobody from what he did in Hardcore Henry; making Nobody the superior film of the two. Much like how the some of the John Wick movies were a bit more self-aware of its ridiculous nature of one-man army vigilante, Naishuller seems to approach Nobody in the same fashion; utilizing the over-the-top scenario to work in the feature’s favor and is self-aware of how silly yet action-packed the story of Hutch Mansell is. Because of this, Naishuller is allowed to jump right into the some of the violent aspect very quickly and does with quite a bit of amusement within how “larger than life” it intends to be; making the whole experience entertaining. Plus, I did like how Naishuller didn’t make the main protagonist character feel invincible. Yes, he was a deadly assassin and he knew what to do in a fight, but Naishuller made sure to make the character a bit more vulnerable and get it hurt, which I kind of liked.
Naturally, this brings up the film’s main attraction, which is (of course) the action. Much like in Hardcore Henry, Naishuller certainly does know how to stage an action sequence and does so in Nobody; effectively choregraphing fights of wide variety from brawling fisticuffs to gun shootouts that ultimately have that “tongue and cheek” type of amusement. Thus, the action sequences are bountiful and have that “over-the-top” entertainment that works within the feature’s favor. Lastly, the film does feel quite breezy. Sure, there are problems with the narrative structure and character development (more on that below), but, for the most part, Naishuller keeps the feature lean and moving forward…. never really feeling sluggish. Plus, the feature’s runtime is only 92 minutes (one hour and thirty-two minutes) long and keeps the movie moving at nice peace; getting in and out of the movie. All in all, I think that Naishuller did a pretty good job with Nobody as his sophomore feature length film.
In its technical presentation, Nobody is solid and holds up from onset to conclusion. Of course, the movie isn’t offering any type of lavish set-pieces or vast vista backdrop landscapes, but the film looks decent enough for this particular type of endeavor by displaying the right amount of background setting nuances and aspects throughout…. from Hutch’s suburban family home to Yulian’s nightclub dwelling and all various places in-between. Thus, Nobody’s background meets the industry standard for a movie in this subgenre. Where Nobody does excel within its presentation is within its various choreographed action sequences, which (as mentioned above) involve a wide variety brawling, gunfights, and close quarter combat that fits altogether quite nicely. Thus, the whole movement and staging of these sequences of events are top-notched and should be commended. Lastly, while the movie’s score, which was composed by David Buckley, is good and fits appropriately for most of the scenes, the really winner in the film’s movie category is in the feature’s soundtrack song selection, which utilizes several memorable songs in some of the movie’s action fighting sequences. Very unique and amusing at the same time…. kind of reminds me of how the Deadpool movies did it.
Unfortunately, despite its run romp of action gunslinging and engaging violent antics, Nobody doesn’t quite get over the hump and faces a few noticeable criticisms within its undertaking and execution. For starters, as I mentioned above, there is no denying that the movie’s setup / premise, has taken cues from the John Wick franchise…. for better or worse. There is no denying the fact that this particular movie draws heavily upon Keanu Reeve’s features of his Mr. Wick character and all the crazy “over-the-top” violence and fight he gets into. Again, as mentioned, that’s part of Nobody’s genetic make-up and I think that Naishuller wants to convey throughout the movie. That being said, the film does play out as a more “John Wick Lite” endeavor; offering a somewhat “watered down” version that contains a lot of similar beats, including the main protagonist “everyday life that he tries to live through, a catalyst event where the main character lets loose, a Russian mobster antagonist, and so on and so forth. You can see the familiarity and its quite clear that Naishuller is taking a lot cues and influence from the John Wick. It’s not a “beat-for-beat” clone of the 2014 film, but a lot of the nuances and aesthetics are unmistakable. This makes Nobody kind of feel like a poor man’s version of John Wick, whether one can see it or not, and creates a few problematic issues.
One of the issues is the story itself, which seems to skip around quite frequently. While the narrative yarn of Hutch Mansell’s journey is pretty straightforward, Nobody does do a lot of “skipping” through its story; causing a lot of time jumps within a few montage sequences. Sure, these sequences can be a but amusing at times (again, where the music song selection takes place), but this makes the film’s story feel a bit thin as if the Naishuller doesn’t have enough substance to make the movie feel whole. Naturally, Naishuller tries to circumnavigate this, but often makes the film feel a bit uneven, which results in having a few pacing issues and plot chunks missing….as if the final cut of Nobody has fragments missing. The film’s script, which was penned by Derek Kolstad, also plays a part in this point of criticism; finding the story written is a bit too simplistic as the setup for the bulk of Nobody feeling lacking. This results in making the story of Hutch Mansell, despite the self-awareness of the ridiculousness action / violence, rather limp and is quite thinly sketched; playing up the conventional nature of the action vigilante angle, but missing substance, especially when examining both story / character developments. Usually, action movies get a slight pass on this (i.e., more focus on the action spectacle rather than being narrative driven) and Nobody falls that notion to a “T”. That being said, I kind of wished that there was more substance in the movie and could’ve benefited the feature.
The cast in Nobody has some recognizable names attached to this movie, yet most are either underutilized on the project or given very little material to play around with. Still, it’s easy can see that most of these acting talents involved with the movie are having fun playing their respective roles and join in on “the fun” of participating in such a project. Who actually doesn’t fit this mold and who actually proves to be the best / memorable player in Nobody is actor Bob Odenkirk, who plays the central main protagonist character of Hutch Mansell. Known for his roles in Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and Incredibles 2, Odenkirk isn’t exactly known for being a leading actor in the action genre as this is his somewhat first attempt sort of speak. Thankfully, he’s pretty good in the role of Hutch and gives the movie a solid leading man role from start to finish. Like the movie itself, Odenkirk knows what type of character performance is needed and plays off of that notion with Hutch; projecting the right amount of tough grit that’s a mixture and cheeky / snarky attitude (suppressed by Odenkirk’s subtle dialed-down demeanor) to make an amusing character. Of course, the substance writing behind Hutch is fairly straightforward, but can be overlooked by Odenkirk’s performance. In the end, Odenkirk’s portrayal of Hutch is what makes the movie fun and ends up being one of the most memorable character in Nobody.
While Odenkirk’s Hutch proves to be the best that the movie has to offer, actor Aleksey Serebryakov fares the worst as the film’s antagonist character of Yulian Kuznetsov, a wild Russian mobster who Hutch draws ire from. While I’m not saying that Serebryakov, who is known for his roles in Van Goghs, Cargo 200, and McMafia, is a terrible actor or discrediting his acting ability, but he simply just too cartoon-ish and goofy to be taken seriously in the movie; making his portrayal of Yulian rather corny. Of course, both him and the script (as well as Naishuller’s direction) try to make the character an unstable individual; erratic in his behavior and making for an unpredictable main bad guy. However, it all comes off as a bit wonky; making Yulian a villainous caricature than a sizeable threat. Plus, the character is plays up the tiresome cliché tropes of being a Russian kingpin mobster, which makes Yulian rather formulaic and uninteresting.
Who fares better are several of the supporting players in the movie, with a special interest coming from seasoned veteran actor Christopher Llyod as David Mansell, Hutch’s elderly father / retired FBI agent. Much like what I said about Llyod, who is known for his roles in the Back to the Future trilogy as well as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Addams Family, in my review for the film Senior Moment, Lloyd has a had a great and illustrious career in Hollywood. Although, his acting appearance have been limited of late due to his age. So, I was definitely pleased to see Llyod acting again in this movie. Personally, he was great as Hutch’s father and definitely made a memorable supporting role in the film as David. To me, Llyod’s involvement in this feature as the whole unique self-aware fun of the feature….and, for one, I liked it. Also, in this category, is rapper / actor RZA who plays Harry, Hutch’s reclusive half-brother. In comparison and of these two, RZA’s Harry gets shortchanged as his screen time is more limited and is more heard than seeing throughout Nobody. However, he does make for a bit lasting impression than most.
Sadly, most of rest side characters in the movie, including actress Connie Nielsen (Gladiator and Wonder Woman) as Hutch’s wife Beca Mansell, actor Gage Munroe (Hotel Transylvania: The Series and Brotherhood) as Hutch’s son Blake Mansell, actress Paisley Cadorath (who makes her acting debut with this movie) as Hutch’s daughter Abby Mansell, actor Colin Salmon (Arrow and Mortal Engines) as Hutch’s former government handler simply known as “The Barber”, actor Aleksandr Pal (Hardcore Henry and Rag Union) as Yulian’s younger brother Teddy Kuznetsov, actor Michael Ironside (Starship Troopers and Total Recall) as Hutch’s father-in-law / boss Eddie Williams, and actor Billy MacLellan (The Expanse and The Silence) as Eddie’s son and Hutch’s brother-in-law Charlie Williams, are woefully underutilized in the movie. The acting talents of these supporting players are good, but the neither the film’s direction nor the feature’s script doesn’t give much way for these particular players just material to work with; rendering them rather bland and utterly forgettable, despite a few having small importance scenes in the film.
After walking away from a life of violence and getting fed up with the meekly existence of everyday life, Hutch Mansell unleashes his inner rage and takes on a Russian mobster and his enforcers in the movie Nobody. Director Ilya Naishuller’s latest film takes a fun spin on the vigilantly action subgenre; projecting a better balance of subversive action and comedy in the film’s proceedings and pitting an amusing concept that seems more of hit than a flop. While the movie struggles in character development, setup concept, and an unforgettable antagonist, the film hits its stride with its over-the-top action and violence throughout, its funny usage of music, Odenkirk’s performance, and the feature’s self-aware of not taking itself too seriously. Personally, this movie was good. Yes, one can clearly see the similarities to the John Wick franchise and some of the feature’s missteps are rough around the edges, but the presented cinematic package of what is offered was (at face value) fun and amusing. Thus, my recommendation for this film would be a fun “recommendation”, especially fans of the vigilantly action subgenre endeavors or something to pass the time until John Wick Chapter 4 comes out. The film’s ending leaves the narrative open for a possible continuation for a Nobody potential franchise, which I definitely can see being worked, but its still a bit too early to call in my opinion. Even if one doesn’t materialize, Nobody stands as a fun yet flawed guilty pleasure of the vigilantly action variety; drumming up entertainment needs within its violent acts of a “one man” army nature.
3.7 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: March 26th, 2021
Reviewed On: May 4th, 2021
Nobody is 92 minutes long and is rated R for strong violence and bloody image, language throughout, and brief drug use