The action movie “Nobody” was written by Derek Kolstad, who gave us the “John Wick” movies. The new film gratifies by giving us the ordinary man forced by circumstance to become violent. Think about Clint Eastwood’s acting career and you’ll have the paradigm.
Well, “Nobody” isn’t “Gran Torino,” but it does have dozens of features of interest. Consider, for example, that its director Ilya Naishuller made the notable 2015 film “Hardcore Henry,” in which the camera is mounted on the head of the lead character so that we almost literally get all the considerable action from his point of view.
Indeed the point of view is very important in “Nobody.” The lead character is a mild-mannered waste management and/or metal fabrications shop manager played by Bob Odenkirk. Like the title character in “John Wick,” Hutch has retired from a career as a paid killer, and he has married and settled into a house.
Then, in each of the movies, the protagonist’s life is violated by outsiders who represent something that isn’t WASP middle America. But while Wick goes on a three movie revenge rampage, Hutch feels sorry for his tormentors and lets them go. Then, frustrated, he accepts the first opportunity to vent.
He attacks a squad of five or six Russian thugs—if Naishuller weren’t himself Russian, moviegoers would be complaining about the revival of the “Russian mafia” movie cliche. The toughs, intoxicated and high, board a public bus on which Hutch is a passenger. They harass the driver and the other riders.
So Hutch takes them apart in nearly Jack Reacher fashion, though the slight and mild character accepts a certain amount of damage to himself before apologizing to the driver and walking away from the broken bodies.
Probably it didn’t take much imagination to advance the plot by associating the Slavs with a large-living Russian capo (Aleksei Serebryakov). This gives Hutch a large and threatening enemy party. Luckily he still has assets from his days as a CIA killer, and a tough father and brother.
Like Stallone in “Last Blood” (and Peter O’Toole in “Rogue Male”), Hutch prepares a trap for his adversaries and then provokes them. Some of the car chase action is exciting. The movie-makers have also come up with some decent alternative weapons with which to stock the fabrications shop.
But Hutch doesn’t allow his emotions to take over. He is constantly calculating, as we learn from a line of interior monologue we hear as he sits on the bus. This and his slim build make Odenkirk an interesting choice to play a successful if messy killer.
Viewers will sympathize with this frustrated everyman. Heck, after a year and more of what would have been unimaginable societal virus monomania, we all know how frustration builds and builds.
But “Nobody” doesn’t have the high style of “John Wick” or anything like the body count. The idea of an “obshak,” a pool of criminal’s retirement savings, was fresh and is handled with Kolstad’s patented restraint.
Also on the plus side, “Nobody” has some comedy, though it is almost all in the film’s last reel. For example, Hutch pauses in his killing spree to wipe clean the number of days at the shop without an accident. And Christopher Lloyd, who plays Hutch’s father, can’t help but be funny.
In short, “Nobody” will probably please a lot of moviegoers, even if it isn’t a surprising treatment of the old formula.
Are you feeling as if you’ve had about enough just now? Go to the theater and see if you feel like Hutch.