If I told you that the director of Hardcore Henry (one of the best action movies of the 2010s) and the writer of John Wick are going to collaborate on an idea by a leading actor, who would you guess that actor would be? If you guessed Bob Odenkirk, then you already know about Nobody, because this collaboration came out of nowhere and surprised everyone; a seasoned and beloved comedian, coming up with the idea and working extremely hard to star in one of the best western action movies of the year, is something nobody (pun intended) would have predicted.
Directed by Ilya Naishuller, written by Derek Kolstad, and starring Bob Odenkirk, Nobody is about Hutch Mansell who is a normal, middle-class, suburban family man; he has a normal routine and a normal job at a normal-looking factory and he seems appropriately defeated by that routine. One night, his routine changes as his house become the target of a home invasion, and his actions spark a chain of events that will lead him to reveal his secretive past and deal with the aftermath of that reveal, mainly by releasing his anger on Russian mobsters. A lot of people looked at the reveal of this movie and thought “is this John Wick, but instead of Keanu it’s Bob Odenkirk?” and that is a fair assumption to make. Russian mobsters, a pet-related incident that creates a world of pain for the bad guys, a dormant badass who unleashes frustration on the bad guys – it seems a lot like John Wick.
Nobody’s brilliance though has to do a lot with those core three people and how their strengths are utilized to negate any negative effects of the clear repetition of that formula and elevate their unique take on it. Bob Odenkirk, for example, is not a badass protagonist of action movies like Keanu, but he underwent similar intensive training and nailed the physicality and the agility required for the choreography of such a movie; he has the appearance of a middle-aged man (because he is one), but he moves and hits like a fit man half his age. Nobody’s action is also less reliant on gun-fu or big spectacle fights and more reliant on what Naishuller showed he can do best with Hardcore Henry, which is speed, impact, street brawl-inspired choreography, and a natural eye for “cool”. His action is directed to be clear and without shaky-cam as well, but he wants to create explosions, cool moments of fights, shoot-outs, comedy, and visually stunning moments, over specific choreography or outlandish feats of strength and agility. Then, Kolstad’s script allows everything to mix together and give ample opportunity for the cast and director to shine; Odenkirk’s natural charisma and acting talents are given a lot of space to shine with lots of one-liners and close-ups, as well as utilizing his comedic talents for levity and a break from the relentless pace; similarly, Naishuller excels at action and cool moments, which is obviously the focus, but his liability in logical progression and narrative are mitigated by a “winking” quality of acceptance to that and the cast’s stellar performances in conveying and encouraging that for the audience.
What the result of this collaboration is and all these factors coming together is a brilliantly paced, exhilarating action movie that is fun, goofy, and cool in an industry that often reverts to gritty, grey, and logical. Nobody’s story, motivation for characters, and logic of action make no sense and I love how they use that to have fun and allow themselves to experiment with the action scenes. Most people already know about the bus scene, because it is that good, and clearly a lot of inspiration and hard work was thrown into it, but there’s a home invasion scene towards the end of the middle act that has absurd reaction times from the bad guys, yet it seems to understand and utilize that if you let it; the clear lighting, the camera positioning, and movement, it all feels like it is there for you to have the best possible experience and it would not be as fun if these intruders behaved realistically, so they don’t. To add to all of this, the licensed song selections are brilliant and I was laughing and had the hairs on the back of my neck raised by the climactic scene song selection. Also, it is great to see Bob Odenkirk and Christopher Lloyd, two beloved actors stretching their talents beyond their usual genres and absolutely nailing their performances.
Long story short, there are plenty of reasons to dislike Nobody, just as with Naishuller’s previous work in Hardcore Henry, or not enjoy Odenkirk’s brand of humor, or not gel with Kolstad’s ambition to make something cool over something that has well-rounded characters and logic. But, all those reasons – like the overuse of licensed songs, slow motion, illogical scenarios, and motivations – are reasons that I loved this movie’s sense of style and charm. It feels like something a few people made for themselves and thought there could be more out there who will like it; it feels like creative individuals coming up with an idea and committing themselves mentally and physically to its fruition on the big screen with no compromises. It’s a cool, break-neck-paced action movie first and everything else is second or irrelevant, and some of those action scenes are some of the best of the year; for me, the experience certainly was one of the best of the year.