Nobody is the Nordstrom Rack subsidiary of the more bespoke beatdowns fashioned by John Wick — still stylish but more simplified, sized for diverse body types, priced to move and, most of all, serving looks that kick unmistakable amounts of ass up and down the goddamn block.
The inverted idea here: What if John Wick’s happy ending came to pass, an invisible retreat into idyllic domesticity where he became just another guy missing the garbage truck each Tuesday? Moreover, what if it worked too well, the malaise that meets us all too forcefully manifested itself, and a vigor-reclaiming indulgence of old ways initiated a mess of unforeseen consequences? That sounds a bit too laddish or loutish, but it’s complemented by a calming counterbalance; this movie’s hero, Hutch Mansell, wants a holistic life of hugs with the fam and thugs he can slam.
To suggest Nobody’s screenwriter Derek Kolstad (who also writes the Wick films) knows only one gear diminishes the full speed at which his vehicles seem to burst forth off the factory line. Hand-to-hand combat and gunplay sequences crackle with incendiary, immaculate staging inherent to acolytes of the 87Eleven Action Design Team (for which the Wick odysseys are bone-crunching brainchildren). Ranging from Nina Simone and Pat Benatar staples to funk and blues from Edwin Starr and Luther Allison, the soundtrack ushers Nobody along at a quick clip across a refreshingly svelte 91 minutes.
These tailors don’t traverse far outside the tradition they’ve set for themselves. But Nobody serves up an everyday ensemble that fits fine. Just fine. And they’ve sewn one hell of a surprise into their sleeve with the delight of watching reed-thin, 58-year-old Bob Odenkirk persuasively mash, pound and pummel his way through the movie as Hutch.
Yes, that Bob Odenkirk, beloved bastion of bizarre sketch comedy from Mr. Show and decorated dramatic actor from TV’s Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Behind-the-scenes material for Nobody finds Odenkirk cheerfully chatting up the process of his physical transformation if he was to make this film “without hurting myself.” The featurette’s setup is not unlike a local gym commercial featuring a dad who discovered fitness again thanks to a gym membership gifted by his kids, or a Mr. Show spoof of same. But in the spirit of Odenkirk’s occasional dad-joke approach to Nobody, this one’s more like better call all … the paramedics.
Odenkirk’s stunning work here simply channels both the adventurous, and dangerous, nature of his yes-and improv roots into a punishingly physical space and the human nuance he brings to James McGill (aka Saul Goodman) in his TV work. You could refer to Hutch as Whippin’ Jimmy in the way he cowers amid endless referendums on his minimized masculinity. Much as the craven mask of Saul has slipped lower with each passing season of Odenkirk’s spinoff series, so too does Hutch’s thrill of goading goons into his wake. There’s a moment where Hutch corrects himself, shifting to past-tense verbs in describing a prized possession he has torched, that owns this film’s ultimate villain harder than any haymaker ever could.
Thankfully, Nobody doesn’t devolve into a dirty little Death Wish knockoff of violent-empowerment fantasy. There’s enough restraint and righteousness built into Hutch’s wiring that rears its head at important moments, like how he gently guides a bus driver onto the curb to give her plausible deniability for the havoc he’s about to wreak or performs a shockingly merciful emergency medical procedure on one of his victims. One character tells Hutch it “ain’t about our want but the principle of need.” Odenkirk lets us see Hutch indulge that to a point. On that score, Nobody is certainly a far cry from the showy, wanton, yawn-inducing first-person POV carnage of director Ilya Naishuller’s previous outing, Hardcore Henry. Here’s an action film that unironically deploys “What a Wonderful World” in the same moment it showcases a self-destruct switch sure to delight middle-aged audiophiles everywhere.
Nobody does briefly evoke unseen-world complexities of John Wick by introducing a few folks with funny code names — enough so that you worry it will trade its corrosive everyplace for a cool underworld better suited in that franchise. (That Russian mob pension plan thing, though? Surprisingly real!) But Kolstad course-corrects in a third act that finds room for yet another giddy genre turn from veteran actor Christopher Lloyd and a Jack Reacher-ish car chase set to “Heartbreaker” that lingers with perfect timing on a “reserved for owner” parking spot at its conclusion. Odenkirk is the right kind of sinner to release this inner fantasy, and Nobody is sure as hell an invincible winner.