Movie Review - Nobody (2021)

The film fits in this genre of one person against an entire gang or mafia group and having to defeat a whole mob practically by himself. Often, that mob is Russian or Eastern European. This premise in films has been exemplified with things like Taken (2009), which centers on a white man in his 50's or older, taking on bad guys alone. There have been films like The Equalizer (2014), Proud Mary (2018) and I Care A Lot (2021), which instead of centering on a white man, centers on a person of color or a woman. This film doesn't attempt to break the mold or put much diversity to the forefront. This film is yet again another 50-year-old white man. Derek Kolstad wrote the screenplay for this and for John Wick (2014), which is another in this same genre. This script is lazily just a re-imagining of John Wick.

John Wick was about a man who tried to live a quiet and peaceful life after having come from a world that was all about killing and violence. A random criminal act causes the man to seek revenge but it's revenge upon the relative of a Russian mobster, which then causes an escalation that prompts the man to defend himself by going on a killing spree. This film, directed by Ilya Naishuller, works from a script that is basically copy-and-paste of that John Wick story. John Wick though was about a man dealing with grief, the loss of a connection to his late wife. That film was also about over-the-top choreography of gun violence and pushing the boundaries or limits of what one will do to get money, power or vengeance.

Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul and Mr. Show with Bob and David) stars as Hutch Mansell, an average man living in the suburbs with a beautiful wife and two beautiful children, a teenage son and prepubescent daughter. He also has a job at his father-in-law and brother-in-law's manufacturing business. However, his existence seems boring. We seem him repetitively going to work and coming home. What makes it a repetitive slog is that he doesn't seem to engage with his family. He doesn't really talk to or have sex with his wife. In fact, they sleep with a line of pillows between them. His son practically ignores him. His daughter is the only one who doesn't and even actively spends time with him.

Kolstad's script has that as its setup. Yet, there's no exploration of that. Why is he so distant from his wife and son? Why is he in this rut? The film does reveal that he had military training and had a government job with likely the CIA or some covert organization, which essentially gave him the same status and prestige of John Wick. John Wick was a hitman, a gun-for-hire, a professional assassin. Hutch Mansell is the equivalent but the difference is that he had the support of the government. We do get the explanation of why he left his deadly government job for a more quiet and peaceful life, but, again it's never made clear why he fell into the rut that he has at the beginning of this film.

Aleksey Serebryakov (Leviathan) co-stars as Yulian Kuznetsov, a Russian mobster who is running a nightclub that features a lot of karaoke. He can seem fun-loving at first, particularly when he's seen singing and dancing in his own club, but it's quickly revealed that he is a very brutal and dangerous man. When Hutch beats up Yulian's younger brother, Yulian goes after Hutch in a vicious way, which leads to a war between Yulian and Hutch.

It's a thin framework to watch Hutch fight off Russian gangsters and thugs, one by one. The brutality of it is very intense. If one liked the violence in John Wick, then one would likely like the violence here. Because Odenkirk comes from a background in comedy, including as a writer for Saturday Night Live, there is a more comedic aspect to everything here, including the violence. Odenkirk is nearly 60 years-old in real-life, so the idea of him doing this action could itself be the joke, but, given that men like Liam Neeson, Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves are all men of similar age, doing the same thing, it's less and less a joke. However, this film ups the ante with having an octogenarian join in the action, that of Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Robert Redford is also an octogenarian who recently did a film called The Old Man & the Gun (2018), but Lloyd here could be called "The Old Man & the Shotgun."

This film does try to subvert that expectation that Hutch isn't a guy who could fight, not simply due to his age, but due to his personality. His personality seems rather nebbish, but that begs the question of what attracted his wife, Rebecca, played by Connie Nielsen (Wonder Woman and Gladiator), in the first place. He's not effeminate, but he's portrayed as a man who is passive and not as aggressive in his expressions of masculinity. A home invasion earlier on has him back down from hurting his burglars when he could have beat them. He's criticized as that being the wrong choice or not the manly choice.

That choice though is arguably not the wrong choice. When he pursues those burglars and flexes that aggressive masculinity, that turns out to be the wrong choice, as the burglars turn out to be not what one expects as well. When Hutch again flexes that aggressive masculinity, it turns out to cause more problems than anything else. He double-downs on this choice and by the end he's rewarded, which felt wrong.

Rated R for strong violence and bloody images, language and brief drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 32 mins.

In theaters.

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