Perhaps the most surprising part of watching the action movie Nobody (2021) was how much I enjoyed it. For those looking for a stylish, well produced, over the top, remarkably tight parodies of violence, Nobody will fit the bill. Think: John Wick with a loving wife and kids.
Violence in the tradition of John Wick
On the other hand, this reaction shouldn’t be surprising. The screenplay was written by John Wick creator Derek Kolstad. These movies work because they don’t take their subjects too seriously. They are self aware of their over the top nature. They integrate imaginative editing and high production values seamlessly. They try to take viewers to levels they haven’t experienced before. The same is true for Nobody.
But Nobody is not John Wick
But Nobody is not John Wick. The protagonist, Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk of Breaking Bad fame), has a similarly dark past. He was an assassin – an “auditor” – doing dirty work for “three letter” American agencies (e.g., FBI, DEA, CIA, etc.).
Like Wick, Hutch retires. But no one is trying to bring him back into the fold. He successfully starts a family and a new life. He has a loving wife, a teenage son, and a pre-teen daughter. He’s in an inverted witness protection program.
But the hum-drum life of a suburban family man gnaws at his gut and his identity. Circumstance leads to what we know is the inevitable – his re-entry into the murderous world of his past.
Tight story highlights parody
The movie has the requisite characters – the shadowy supporters, the psychopathic underworld boss, scores of thugs who come out of nowhere, and clueless regular detectives. Mansell, like Wick, is way too old to do what he does. Somehow, it’s all believable because the story is parody. The movie tries to aspire to be more than it is. It’s all handled with good humor and fun.
Perhaps more remarkable is how tight and well written the screenplay is. Hutch’s wife (Connie Neilson) is not clueless. Just enough doubt is sowed in the Russian underworld’s character (Aleksei Valeryevich Serebryakov) for us to hope he might make the right decision. The right hand thug is a black man (rapper RZA) who speaks fluent Russian. The elderly father (Christopher Lloyd) is more than clued into his son’s occupation. The list of clever conflicts and twists goes on… and on. After all, we can’t forget the kitty cat bracelet.
Each layer of the movie is logically added to enhance the story, increase the conflict, gradually bring the audience in, but keep the audience guessing… just a little. Everyone knows what the outcome will be no matter how many bodies with automatic weapons and (almost) endless supplies of ammunition are thrown at Hutch. Right? Maybe not. Maybe he will sacrifice himself for his family. Or maybe not. That’s good storytelling. And a family man’s dilemma.
Ridiculous but highly entertaining
But Nobody’s editing is extraordinarily effective. It keeps the story moving, methodically quickening its pace. The backstory layers in at just the right times.
It’s all ridiculous. And highly entertaining.
My review of John Wick, Chapter 3: Parabellum can be found here.