Featuring some impressive action and a solid lead turn from Bob Odenkirk, Nobody is a perfectly average action flick that, in fairness, delivers pretty much exactly on what it promises.
It’s hard not to draw comparisons to John Wick when watching Nobody, when they’re impossible to deny. Both follow retired assassins out for one last job after an attack on their home; both feature brutal and violent gun battles; both feature Russian mobsters as the primary villains; both feature aging actors no one thought we’d see as action stars at this point in their lives; both were written by Derek Kolstad. The main difference, it seems, is that Ilya Naishuller’s Nobody is distinctly more average than its Keanu-starring brother—and that’s something of a shame.
Nobody follows Bob Odenkirk’s Hutch Mansell, a retired government assassin who has become dissatisfied with his civilian life. When he unwittingly becomes the target of a Russian drug lord, he must fight to keep himself and his family safe from the wrath of the mob. It’s a fairly by-the-numbers narrative, which doesn’t allow the film to properly stretch its wings as much as it could. It’s not a bad action flick by any means, just a solid one—no more, no less.
There are definitely a number of good things about Nobody: for one, the action is pretty slick. Unlike the balletic beauty of John Wick, Nobody is scrappy and nasty—Hutch is less elegant than John, more chaotic, and that certainly makes for a fascinating action dynamic. The various sequences are shot and edited really well and pack a hell of a punch, thanks to some great camerawork from Pawel Pogorzelski (Hereditary, Midsommar), and some fantastic stuntwork all-round. A home invasion scene at the film’s mid-point is a particular standout, and the final confrontation is composed of a brilliant warehouse siege.
Acting-wise, Odenkirk does as well as he can with what he’s given as Hutch. Christopher Lloyd is on spectacular form as Hutch’s shotgun-wielding father, while Alexey Serebryakov is really chewing some scenery as Yulian, the film’s villain. Connie Nielsen is sweet as Hutch’s wife Becca, but she’s given far too little to do—essentially relegated to the ‘worried wife’ stereotype.
As charming as the cast are, though, there are a handful of problems that stop Nobody reaching the John Wick-level heights it’s so desperately reaching for. With movies like these, the narrative’s kick-off incident needs to make sense —we need to believe why our main character wants to get back into the fight they’ve avoided for so long. Here, it doesn’t really work. The event that sets the bulk of the narrative flowing is Hutch dispatching a group of young men on a bus—but it doesn’t make sense why he does this. They’re loud, sure, and a little bit drunk, but they’re not doing anything so bad that they deserve to be hospitalised or killed. Hutch just goes nuts for no real reason, and although the action is entertaining enough (especially as Hutch takes a serious beating, which we don’t see all that much in a world of Fast & Furious-style action movies), it’s hard to believe that he is the good person we keep being told he is.
And that’s another of the film’s issues: Hutch is especially hard to feel sympathy towards. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having an unlikable main character: of course, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a great example of something with truly terrible protagonists that still manages to be good. But things get messy when we’re clearly supposed to root for this guy who just isn’t all that likable. Odenkirk the actor is charming as hell, but Hutch himself is a tad unsavoury: taking him at face value, he goes nuts and starts killing people because his wife isn’t having sex with him (I promise I’m not exaggerating, that’s literally what he says). What’s that about? It’s not quite Joker levels of incel madness, but it’s a strange, shallow, and rather confusing character trait to give a supposedly sympathetic protagonist.
There are also an annoying number of obnoxious needle drops that do nothing except pull us out of the movie. Composer David Buckley has done some excellent work in the past on projects like The Nice Guys, Greenland and Jason Bourne, so it seems odd that Naishuller doesn’t seem to trust him to score swathes of the movie, and instead opts for a bunch of out-of-place jukebox tracks.
Nobody isn’t a bad movie. It just isn’t a stellar one either. While a basic narrative and some strange music choices hold it back a little, Nobody is a mostly enjoyable little action movie that succeeds largely thanks to the charisma of its lead. Just don’t go in expecting John Wick levels of quality, and you’ll be right as rain.
Words by Matt Taylor