Now on HBO Max after a theatrical run in early 2021, Nobody is a wiseass action movie starring Bob Odenkirk, the longtime funnyman character actor (and comedy writer, don’t forget) who broke big playing iconically sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Casting him as the lead in a what-if-John Wick-was-a-comedy exercise — scripted by Wick writer Derek Kolstad, notably — surely plays against type, but most of the fun here is seeing Odenkirk go brutal while playing a schmuck who turns out to be not much of a schmuck after all.
NOBODY: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Punk-rock icon Henry Rollins once wrote a nasty little screed titled “Family Man” featuring the seething line, “family man, I want to crucify you on your front door with nails from your well-stocked garage.” Well, Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) has a well-stocked garage. His suburban-dad routine is numbing bullshit: Bus, desk, spreadsheet, dinner, take out the trash, no sex with his wife (Connie Nielsen), wake up, bus, repeat, repeat, repeat. He can do an impressive number of pull ups though, which makes us pause.
One night two armed burglars break into the house. His teenage son (Gage Munroe) tackles one, and he stops himself from whanging a golf club against the other one’s skull. The thieves get away. Hutch used restraint. He chose to de-escalate. He chose peace over violence. He did the wise, reasonable thing, like a total complete utter wimp. And now, his wife stacks 18 inches of pillows between them in bed.
Hutch sinks low. He’s a military veteran, but was just an auditor. So his son instead writes about his uncle for a school assignment, because he was “a real soldier.” His young daughter laments that the robbers took her kittycat bracelet, and that seems to be Hutch’s last straw. Hoping to find the perps, he starts turning over stones, and that’s when you get the feeling he’s going to find a big ugly squirming grub under there — but surprise, he’s not the type to run screaming from some larvae. Oh no. He’s on the bus late at night and five drunk young thug types get on and eyeball a young woman, and that’s just the thing to scratch Hutch’s itch. He takes a few punches and gets moderately stabbed, but you should see the other guys. A few fractured noses, busted arms, smashed windpipes, gruesome dislocations and other miscellaneous injuries later, it seems as if a long-dormant beast inside Hutch is starting to Hulk the f— out.
Performance Worth Watching: Odenkirk is perfect here. PERFECT. You loved him before, and after this, you’ll love him more.
Memorable Dialogue: Hutch, in voiceover, staring down five assailants: “I hope these assholes like hospital food.”
Sex and Skin: None, although I imagine our boy Hutch surely gets a little somethin’ after the credits roll.
Our Take: Is Nobody satire or male revenge-fantasy fodder or violence for violence’s sake? Yes, yes and yes. It begins by skewering a dichotomy: the emasculated male who does the right thing for the betterment of his family and the collective human experience, and is rejected by the world for it. This conundrum is presented as idealism vs. cruel reality, a twisted commentary on the state of pacifism in the face of the ugly truth. Fodder to ponder, no doubt — and the next thing you know, we’re laughing our asses off as we watch Odenkirk put some deserving shitbirds in traction, which is the kind of thing we among the middle-aged laundry-folding flabby-midsection men wish we could do, the fantasy we indulge while we yank and yank and yank and can’t get the goddamn mower to start, forcing us to smack it with the socket wrench we barely know how to use and give up and call a mechanic. (Maybe I’m seeing more of myself in this than I’d care to admit?)
There’s a great scene here in which Hutch interacts with a neighbor who struts his testosterone-fueled manhood by showing off a vintage muscle car he inherited from his dad, who he says wasn’t much of a father, which surely explains the guy’s macho-braggart tone (“It goes zero to 60 in I’M ABOUT TO FIND OUT!”). It goes without saying that this guy’s car is better than Hutch’s car by about 300 horsepower. Contrast that with the moment where Hutch’s daughter, who’s maybe seven or eight, is the only person in his life who shows any faith or confidence in him. “You scared?” he asks, and she replies, “Why would I be? You’re here.” She really wants a kitten, and he agrees. There’s no reason he can’t find the sweet spot between alpha and beta.
Of course, all this is sort of undermined by the second and third acts, when we learn that Hutch is much more than just a khaki-pantsed milksop and has a secret past as a bulletproof hero, which exactly zero of us are. Director Ilya Naishuller (Hardcore Henry) drops the yimmer-yammer inner-life self-analytical crapola — go tell it ta ya analyst, ya crybaby — and delivers satisfyingly visceral action as Hutch seeks to ruthlessly exterminate a bevy of ruthless Russian mobsters in order to keep his wife and kids safe (with a little help from Christopher Lloyd, who steals a scene or two playing Hutch’s pops). Slightly muddying the message doesn’t stop Nobody from being a consistently amusing, fast-paced slice of neo-genre entertainment that kind of irresponsibly asserts that violence begetting violence is perfectly fine if it’s set to a killer soundtrack (Pat Benatar!) and represented by a guy who can be funny and tough as leather at the same time. Got it: Tongues firmly in cheeks then.
Our Call: STREAM IT, then go chug some brewskis. Nobody is wild, OTT fun that might not work without Odenkirk’s full-bore performance.