Like Liam Neeson who was Taken before him, Bob Odenkirk has surprisingly joined the list of violent cinema daddies who would rather catch a body than buy a boat to assuage their quiet discontentment with life. From John Wick to Nobody, both of which share writer Derk Kolstad, there is a growing genre of movies about seemingly happily, married older dudes who are secretly very cool and very good at killin’, hyper-targeted at actual patriarchs.
They are, by and large, fun and dumb. The films, not your dad. Still, in a country where “average white dude snapped and started copiously murdering” is a nightly news segment, the implications can be kinda ooky. This isn’t to suggest movies like this inspire or cause gross tragedies. They just feel like a reflection of the simmering toxicity beneath the clenched teeth of the guy at the office who says things like “living the dream” when you ask him how things are going.
These movies always start with the premise that the unassuming pops one cubicle over is actually a bad-ass death dealer. In Nobody, that’s Hutch (Odenkirk), a sullen jogger who always seems to miss trash day. When burglars plunder his house, he uses it as an excuse to revisit the part of himself that he hid in his mental basement in order to play house with his wife (Connie Nielsen). Soon, he’s pissed off a shiny suit-wearing Russian mobster (Aleksey Serebryakov) who is willing to blow up the entire city of…wherever this is set.
Director Ilya Naishuller’s paunch-punching papa-centered parable deploys NPR-friendly jazz and oldies over many of its fight sequences. Just to remind you how cool your father used to be before he had to settle down and leave his wild days behind him, Hutch is even friends with a Wu Tang Clan member (RZA)! The violence is mostly wildly cartoony, which is a compliment, as the more realistic things get, the less it feels like absurdist fantasy and the more it feels like CNN.
Odenkirk plays Nobody straight, but there’s a hint of playfulness that feels like a missed opportunity. The film doesn’t actually have anything self-aware or clever to say about the repeating pattern of murder-daddy cinema, although it could/should have. Casting Christopher Lloyd as Hutch’s father sure seems like a missed opportunity to reflect on the cross-generational angst felt by men “of a certain age.”
Unto itself, Nobody is a quick-n-dirty ditty that does its job. And so long as you don’t think too much about what that job is, you’ll be fine. Because what seems to be clear is that there’s a sizeable appetite for imaginary suburban warfare growing out of a foundational and fundamental frustration many white men have with the modern construct of domestic life. But, you know, so long as you sit back and just enjoy the guy from Mr. Show doing murder stuff, it’s “fun.”
Grade = B
Other Critical Voices to Consider
Travis Hopson of Punch Drunk Critics says Nobody is “a fun-but-forgettable shot of adrenaline that never aspires to be more than that.”
Max Weiss of Baltimore Magazine, who is fast becoming one of my favorite reads, says “Nobody is the Axe Body Spray of movies. It’s pseudo cool, it leaves a lingering bad odor, and just because it’ll find an appreciative audience of hormonal teenage boys doesn’t mean it’s actually any good.”
Michelle Kisner at The Movie Sleuth says “Despite the unoriginal premise, Nobody is a briskly directed action film that’s worth a watch just for Odenkirk’s performance.”