The Bob Odenkirk Action Movie 'Nobody' Is No Joke
The 'Better Call Saul' star gets his own John Wick-esque movie from the writer of 'John Wick.'
For four seasons on HBO's cult sketch comedy series Mr. Show, Bob Odenkirk perfected the art of playing a doofus. His many characters, like a gray-haired mobster insisting 24 is the highest number or a marching band savant named John Baptiste Philouza composing music by blowing air out of his mouth, were distinguished by the utter certainty of their beliefs. Whether he was singing a country song about blowing up the moon or using trick-shot pool to explain the history of mass transportation, Odenkirk was both an ideal blow-hard and a brilliant straight man. Though he looked like an affable Midwestern guy, there was always something fundamentally off about him.
Judging from the posters and the trailer, Nobody, a Death Wish-like revenge fantasy starring Odenkirk as a suburban dad with a hidden violent past, feels like a radical shift for the 58-year-old actor. But it's only the latest change in a transformation that began with Vince Gilligan and the rest of the writers on Breaking Bad tweaking Odenkirk's established comedic persona when they introduced ethically challenged lawyer Saul Goodman in the series' second season. That character has acquired even more depth in the prequel spin-off Better Call Saul, which serves as a showcase for Odenkirk's dramatic chops. So, in a way, Nobody, a star vehicle in the John Wick or Taken mold, is a logical next step.
As Hutch Mansell, a creature of habit who works for his father-in-law and brother-in-law at a manufacturing plant, Odenkirk brings a sad-sack, emotionally repressed quality. His wife (Connie Nielsen) hardly pays attention to him in the morning and his kids, particularly his teenage son Blake (Gage Munroe), think he's a bit of a dork. When a home invasion interrupts the family's quiet, dull life, Hutch surprises no one by failing to take action against the intruders, dropping a golf club when his son gets the jump on one of the burglars. He's more at home with his record collection than with confrontation. He's your average wimp.
At least, that's how Hutch is initially presented. Nobody, which was directed by Ilya Naishuller (Hardcore Henry) and written by John Wick screenwriter Derek Kolstad, has fun setting up Hutch as a loser cut from the American Beauty or Fight Club cloth. But Hutch's emasculated father schtick is merely a costume he's wearing to cover up his old life as a Bourne-like assassin, one who worked as an "auditor" for a number of government agencies, delivering death upon request. When he goes seeking out his daughter's stolen kitty-kat bracelet and gets in a brutal brawl on a bus, he sets off a series of events that piss off a Russian mobster (Aleksey Serebryakov) and inevitably leads to even more outlandish (and deadly) shootouts, fistfights, and car chases.
Little of Nobody is played for laughs, necessarily, but there's an archness to the presentation, a tendency to put a bow on every interaction to perhaps undercut the meathead philosophy guiding the project. As the bodies pile up, you might find it a little exhausting. John Wick-ian world-building touches, like when Hutch visits a man referred to as "The Barber" to help him score some intel, get stacked on top of choreographed gun battles and telegraphed twists. There's always been an epic whiskey guy undercurrent to the Wick franchise that's expertly offset by the calmer energy of Keanu Reeves, and Odenkirk does similar work here, grounding the action and not overselling the smirk or winking at the nostalgia. He doesn't move like Reeves—who does?—but he more than acquits himself to the physical demands of the role. More importantly, Odenkirk's background as a comedian, his status as an avatar of '90s cynicism, gives the movie a surreal charge it would have otherwise lacked. Even in a movie with a fundamentally retrograde worldview, you want to root for this goofy guy.