Nobody

 

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American Beauty meets Death Wish in one of the year’s more surprising, ultra-violent comic thrillers.

 

Nobody

Sedentary man: Bob Odenkirk

  

Hutch Mansell is stuck in a rut. While living out the American dream – nice house, beautiful wife, two kids, regular job – the flavour has drained from his existence. His son ignores him, the garbage men ignore him – and the marital bed has become undisturbed by amorous spontaneity. Only his daughter Abby puts a glint in his eye. Then one night – another sleepless one for Hutch – the family home is broken into by a pair of armed, masked intruders. Hutch reaches for a golf club, but even as his son is beaten to the floor, he cannot come to the boy’s defence. Only when his wife turns up do the burglars flee, with Hutch’s watch and a fistful of dollars. And maybe something else…

 

Ilya Naishuller’s Nobody could hardly start more promisingly. To the strains of Nina Simone singing ‘Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood,’ the title credits on black segue to a close-up of the battered, bloodied face of Bob Odenkirk, who is handcuffed and in a police holding cell. And the first words on the soundtrack, spoken by an interrogating officer: “Who the fuck are you?” To which our hero replies, “Um…I’m…” Cut to the film’s title.

 

Just as Hutch is meek and inconsequential, so a local crooner and art collector from Russia proves to be his demonstrative opposite. With his disdain for traffic and the niceties of polite conversation, Yulian Kuznetsov (Aleksei Serebryakov) will kill a stranger with his bare hands just to make a point. But across town – Winnipeg, of all places – Hutch Mansell discovers that the thieves of the previous night have stolen Abby’s kitty cat bracelet. Almost instantly, Hutch is a man transformed. You can push a gun in his face, but you don’t steal from the man’s nine-year-old daughter. So Hutch sets out in the night and discovers two things: the meaning of pain and the error of picking on a man who may just be the son of a ruthless Russian mobster…

 

The entertainment value of Nobody is largely predicated on its ability to surprise. And the first surprise is the presence of Bob Odenkirk. A comedian and character actor whose most recent credits include the father in Little Women and the TV actor-turned-US president in Jonathan Levine's hilarious Long Shot, he hardly seems leading man material. Yet even at the age of 58, he is in terrific shape and fulfils the twin demands of doleful apathy and grim determination. And that’s before he exhibits his physical prowess. Odenkirk is a revelation.

 

Recycling old tropes in a refreshing way, Nobody is nothing if not a guilty pleasure, at least for its first two thirds. Not only does Hutch embody the shadow of the man he once aspired to be, he is the stirring vigilante in the breast of every man who thinks he wants a quiet life. Russian thugs aside, many viewers might well identify with him. And, under Ilya Naishuller's brisk direction, the film is a stylish affair, packed with throwaway visual gags and bursting with neatly juxtaposed hit songs (from the likes of Steve Lawrence, Louis Armstrong, Pat Benatar, Gerry & The Pacemakers…). Only in its final stages does the film resort to formula, but by then we are so invested in Hutch’s adventure that we are just happy for the bus to take us wherever. And with the likes of RZA, Colin Salmon and Christopher Lloyd (now 82) on board, we’re in agreeable company.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, Aleksei Serebryakov, RZA, Michael Ironside, Colin Salmon, Billy MacLellan, Araya Mengesha, Christopher Lloyd, Gage Munroe, Paisley Cadorat, Aleksandr Pal, Humberly González, Edsson Morales, Adrian McLean.

 

Dir Ilya Naishuller, Pro Kelly McCormick, David Leitch, Braden Aftergood, Bob Odenkirk and Marc Provissiero, Ex Pro Tobey Maguire and Annie Marter, Screenplay Derek Kolstad, Ph Pawel Pogorzelski, Pro Des Roger Fires, Ed William Yeh and Evan Schiff, Music David Buckley, Costumes Patricia J. Henderson, Sound Pat Haskill.

 

Perfect World Pictures/87North Productions/Eighty Two Films/Odenkirk Provissiero Entertainment-Universal Pictures.

92 mins. USA/Japan. 2021. Rel: 9 June 2021. Cert. 15.