Paper-thin plot but Odenkirk and the action sequences save it.
When Hutch Mansell (played by Bob Odenkirk) fails to protect himself or his family from a break-in, he has to confront a past that he has long suppressed. When a Russian mobster, Yulian Kuznetsov (Aleksei Serebryakov), enters into the equation, Mansell will fully embrace who he is and save his wife and son from a dangerous adversary.
Here be spoilers…
What we like
At first glance, it might look like a John Wick spin-off (person who is really good at killing is forced out of hiding to take on Eastern European gangsters) given that it is also written by the same guy (Derek Kolstad) who created the John Wick franchise but Nobody stands on its own.
The action sequences are fun to watch and they have some sort of messy brutality in their execution. Sort of like a ballet in a sty. There's storytelling in punches and kicks—when we first see Mansell in action, it is a brawl that delivers equal amounts of hurt to him as well as to his assailants. In subsequent fights, Mansell becomes more adept at it, like riding a bike. The director for Nobody is Ilya Naishuller, who is behind the first-person movie, Hardcore Henry and it is Naishuller's eye that lends the film its savage aesthetic.
Bob Odenkirk, who is normally known as a comedian and as the scheming lawyer, Saul Goodman, from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, takes the path less-typecast. Yes, he plays a suburban schlub (at the start) but it is as a suburban schlub that you don't want to mess with; there's always an air of simmering rage beneath that world-weary demeanour.
You watch Mansell try to connect with a son who wishes his father would 'man up'; you empathise with Mansell, whose relationship with his wife (Connie Nielson) takes a turn for the frigid. One of Hollywood's more underrated actors, Odenkirk plays the sad sack with nuance. But then he picks up a golf club and charges someone with it; he changes clips in the middle of a gunfight; Mansell caves someone's skull in with a kettle, Odenkirk is believable in an action choreography.
I mean, if you'd told me three years ago that Odenkirk is an action hero in the vein of Liam Neeson, I'd assume it was as a comic foil in a Mr Show sketch. And I think that's what makes his character so believable. It's that meta-layer of a person so unassuming that when he does something like stab someone with such precision, you immediately sit up and take notice.
But your hero is only as good as the antagonist. Cue Aleksei Serebryakov as the sociopathic Yulian Kuznetsov. Serebryakov is an actor of renown and his violent outbursts paint an accurate picture of his kindly grandfather persona. You truly believe that Mansell has finally met his match.
But.. not when it comes to character development, which brings us to the next segment:
What we didn't like
It's filled with characters that require development. I mean, you see Mansell languishing in suburbia living and letting loose that tiger in the cage as a way to claim some long-forgotten manhood. Okay, I get it. But the rest of the cast? Mansell's wife is lacking (is it believable that she's willing to overlook her husband's past?). The villain, Kuznetsov, is one-dimensional. A big shame, especially for a thespian like Serebryakov.
Then you have the father (played by Christopher Lloyd) and the brother (RZA), who are mildly exciting but does not convince me of their bonds as a family. It's so weird. It's as though the ACTION TOOK PRECEDENT OVER THE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.
So, yeah. The plot is shallow. There are echoes of Death Wish and Falling Down; of one man who had enough and decided to take things into his own hands through violent means.
I don't buy Mansell's motivation to kill to protect his family. "I’m a good man, a family man," he says. A weak justification for his kill spree. The retrieval of his daughter's kitty bracelet from the burglars who broke into his home is just a vehicle for him to lash out. Even when he sees the improvised lives of his house We only see him feel guilty is when he discovers the low-level burglars have a sickly baby, which is a great facet to them (criminal parents who rob just so they can provide medical care to their ailing child) but nothing more is done with them. Their presence is just a catalyst for Mansell's return to his old life.
(God, and would it hurt to help the burglars? I mean, with all them gold bars stashed away, I'm sure Mansell could anonymously donate some cash to them?)
Also, Mansell is asked to go to see the Barber (Colin Salmon) for information on about Yulian, the Barber… isn't cutting hair. He's in the chair getting shaved instead. So, is he called the Barber because he owns a barbershop? That's like saying, I'm the Chef because I know how to microwave water. What's with the pretentiousness of the monikers when it doesn't play into what they do?
Lastly, are they really not gonna hint at a shared universe with the John Wick franchise? Really? REALLY?
What to look out for
Pay attention to some continuity errors like the Mansell's knuckles on the bus; are they bloodied or not bloodied? Every time Christopher Lloyd's character cracks open a smile when he blows someone away, that's when an angel of death gets his wings.
Nobody is now out in theatres.