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  • Writer's picturePerrin Faerch

Review: Nobody (2021)

Nobody, a film penned by John Wick creator and writer Derek Kolstad, manages to subvert the try-hard attitude of that franchise and inject a sense of tongue-in-cheek fun into another John Wick-esque universe he has unleashed upon the world. It isn’t quite as self-aware as I was hoping for it to be, but it manages to be more fun and far more engaging than what the John Wick series has become, with Bob Odenkirk elevating the film from being a knockoff into being a highly entertaining popcorn movie worth setting aside for your Friday night.

Nobody follows Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk), a regular-joe who lives a mundane life of repetition and a lack of passion for anything. His marriage has lost its spark and well, his family life is as dull as it can get. After failing to capitalize on stopping a pair of small-time burglars, Hutch soon tracks them down, giving way to the individual he has been hiding deep down inside for all these years. His pent-up rage and frustration finally rears its head, unintentionally triggering a feud with a powerful mob boss hell-bent on exacting revenge, but also giving him a chance to make sure he is never underestimated again.

It’s not the deepest or most original of plots, but like the first John Wick movie, the simplicity of it all paired with the brutal action works brilliantly. John Wick, in my pointless opinion at least, faltered massively with the sequels, where they seemingly abandoned the initial cause and effect of the first film’s plot and opted for silly world-building instead of actually focusing on John Wick’s growth as a character. Nobody isn’t completely self-aware, but Bob Odenkirk’s acting ability in both drama and comedy comes in handy here, allowing for the plot to play with moments of humour that can’t be executed as successfully in the John Wick films due to it taking itself way too seriously. It’s still performed seriously though, but Odenkirk’s instincts stop it from ever feeling like it’s trying way too hard to be cool, because it actually does come across as being pretty damn cool. As I said before, the plot isn’t particularly original, but the execution of set-pieces and an ever reliable Odenkirk, allows Nobody to separate itself from creator Kolstad’s bigger franchise.

It’s hard not to continuously draw comparisons to John Wick in regards to Nobody, so I apologize in advance. Same writer, same producers, similarly brutal action with even more room for sequels and world-building that makes more sense than John Wick. So, I was worried heading into Nobody. I enjoyed the first John Wick to a point but hated the two sequels following it thanks to poor plotting, the cringiest of dialogue, bland characters and insanely stupid world-building. Nobody thankfully came out the blocks wanting to pursue new ideas instead of being a carbon copy of an insanely successful recipe. The fight scenes, for instance, feel more real and it’s nice to see our hero actually get the crap kicked out of him instead of barely encountering any sort of challenge like in John Wick. The sense of danger is back, challenges are now actually challenging for our hero. Hutch sits on a bus hoping for some sort of release, someway he can vent this rage brewing inside him. Finally, some drunken douchebags enter, providing this much-needed release of tension for him. “I’m gonna fuck you up” blurts a newly awakened Hutch as he begins to get the shit kicked out of him. He’s rusty and slow, but thankfully he still manages to inflict more damage on them. It’s a satisfying and bruising scene of effective wish fulfilment we have all daydreamed about doing towards the bullies we are too afraid to stand up to. It’s a ferocious fight scene rooted more in reality than the John Wick films, making it far more unpredictable and exciting than what we have found ourselves getting used to with that series. Think Oldboy’s famous hallway fight in terms of raw energy, realism and plenty of "oof" moments. The humour is great here as well, with each fighter getting fatigued, increasingly sore and frustrated with the level of damage being inflicted upon them.

The fights tend to get easier for Hutch going forward from here though, which is understandable. Seeing as he was a former highly trained killer (an auditor for the government as he calls it), it makes sense for his reawakening to shake off the rust as others come after him, improving with each encounter and returning to his best, but unfortunately the level of thrill and the unpredictable nature of that bus encounter begins to fade with each fight scene that follows. However, they are still fun and undoubtedly thrilling sequences, bringing different dimensions as opposed to the exact same fight formula found in John Wick (sorry for yet another comparison) of *punch punch punch head shot*. Director Ilya Naishuller, his camera department and the stunt team deserve credit for these sequences though, making a massive effort in ramping up the intensity of each fight, car chase and shoot-out without it feeling like a copycat and effectively topping the last two Wick films in originality and entertainment.

Kolstad is a better screenwriter when he sticks to the initial set-up and themes laid out before him. He was guilty of completely ignoring major character arcs and elements of John Wick, and with Nobody, we find the story ditching fun and unique plot beats for tired tropes and clichés that are completely predictable. Things that trigger the plot into its next phase don’t really hold up in believability with each situation as well, with characters taking unwarranted left turns out of the blue when we haven’t really seen enough cause for them to do so. For instance, Hutch decides to find the burglars when his daughter can’t find her kitty cat bracelet which was left in a bowl filled with dollar notes the burglars took off with. As intruiging and as fun as that plot point sounds, we barely see any relationship with his daughter in the film, so this decision on his part has no real impact on us as we haven’t been given a chance to really see their relationship. It's such a missed opportunity in giving us so much more depth to both Hutch and his relationship to his family, particularly his daughter. Instead, it comes across as a chore-like story beat in getting Hutch to the next point in the film's overall plot. After all, the quest for this bracelet as the main plot is far more fun and interesting compared to the feud with a mob boss route it eventually takes that is all too similar to the first John Wick. The odd misplaced scenes of expositional monologues and flashbacks coming from Hutch feel out of place as well. Although enjoyable, nothing has been set up in regards to the quirks and characteristics of Hutch to imply that he would randomly do these monologues. It just feels like the writer needed to include some sort of explanation into who he is and unfortunately, it can come across as a lazy quick fix as opposed to finding a smarter way to reveal his character’s backstory to us. They could’ve used his father (Christopher Lloyd) and the helpful nameless voice appearing on his radio throughout the film (RZA) as a means to exploring this, but fail to utilize it to its full potential.

Hutch isn’t a particularly original or interesting character, but Odenkirk adds a fine polish to him, bringing a level of relatable believability to a character that is always in danger of becoming a bit one dimensional. The deeper we go, the more of a John Wick-type character he becomes, but Odenkirk’s range as an actor comes in handy here. He actually makes Kolstad’s often bland dialogue sound believable and dare I say, cool. “Give me the goddamn kitty cat bracelet mother fucker!” is all the more satisfying when Odenkirk is delivering it. Charming, cool and sharp through-out, Slippin’ Jimmy (where my Better Call Saul fans at?) is the action hero we never knew we needed, with Odenkirk taking it a step further by doing all of his own stunts. Other than Hutch though, there’s not much else in compelling characters found in Nobody. The villain is your standard flamboyant and psychotic mob boss using honour and family as a reason for vengeance, Hutch’s family doesn’t add much to the plot other than being handy devices in motivating him, and the allies he does have feel like excuses to shoehorn Christopher Lloyd and RZA into the plot with not much else to do other than providing more firepower. Although, it is really cool seeing Christopher Lloyd and RZA teaming up side-by-side armed to the teeth.

Nobody isn’t perfect by any means, but its energy and its ability to have fun with itself is infectious. Its slick direction, choreography and of course, Bob Odenkirk, makes Nobody a bloody, bruising and ultimately gratifying actioner that is, for me at least, better than the entirety of the John Wick franchise put together.

Where you can watch it: In theatres from Friday the 2nd of April (SA), In theatres now (USA), In theatres 11th of June (UK), In theatres 1st of April (Australia).

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