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Film Review: Saul Goodman Does John Wick in Derivative “Nobody”

Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | March 26th, 2021

Film poster: “Nobody”

Nobody (Ilya Naishuller, 2021) 2 out of 4 stars. 

Enjoy stories about mild-mannered guys who suddenly get their back up and turn into killers? This is hardly new cinematic territory, but if that kind of story is your thing, then there are bits of joy to find in the new film Nobody. From the writer of John Wick (Derek Kolstad) and the director of Hardcore Henry (Ilya Naishuller), the movie is everything one would expect from that pedigree: ultraviolent and with an occasional modicum of wit (for the record, I very much enjoyed John Wick). Unfortunately, it is not nearly clever enough to carry its narrative forward through the mayhem (a problem shared with Hardcore Henry). Though it is fun to see Bob Odenkirk, the star of Better Call Saul, kick some ass (and face, and neck and every other body part), as well as shoot everything in sight, this guilty pleasure proves fleeting.

When first we meet Odenkirk’s Hutch, he is in an interrogation, bloodied but hard-eyed, with a cat in his lap, for whom he opens a can of food despite handcuffs. Asked who he is, by what look like some kind of federal agents, he replies … well, we don’t hear the reply, but the title card pops up, answering the question for him. Cut, then, to the recent past, where Hutch is anything but the man we have just seen. Rather, he is a milquetoast, the weaker partner in a marriage to wife Becca (a criminally underused Connie Nielsen, Wonder Woman).

l-r: Bob Odenkirk and Connie Nielsen in NOBODY ©Universal Pictures

Via a montage, we watch the humdrum routine of the couple’s life. An accountant, Hutch seems uninspired by much of anything, not even his two kids, an older boy and younger daughter. But after a break-in to their house, something snaps, especially after his boy expresses disappointment in Hutch’s unwillingness to fight. The fact that one of his girl’s treasured objects was stolen proves the last straw.

What we soon discover about Hutch helps explain the opening, though there are more revelations before we get there. Sadly, one of the big ones involves a Russian mobster, Yulian, played by Aleksey Serebryakov (so fine in Leviathan yet here overacting to the nth degree). His involvement in the narrative raises the stakes considerably, leading to major bloodshed. It’s all more muddle than it’s worth. Even RZA, arriving at the climax, can’t quite help us make sense of the mess, though Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), as Hutch’s father, enlivens the later scenes where he pops up.

RZA in NOBODY ©Universal Pictures

By the end, one’s senses are numb, even as the memory of certain amusing killings briefly flicker in the back of one’s mind. Still, if one can overlook the macho posturing and massive collateral damage (nothing new for an action movie), there are some good times, upon occasion; it’s not a total wash, in other words. Nor is it, however, particularly noteworthy.

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is Managing Editor at Film Festival Today; lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is one of the cohosts of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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