movie review: Nobody (2021)

Here’s one I was looking forward to: Nobody starring Bob Odenkirk. There’s a fake commercial for a lawyer that’s just Odenkirk advising you directly through the camera to deny knowing about a tiger you owned mauling people. It was so funny and I thought I had missed this Mr. Show sketch and failed to memorize it over the years. I mean, the sketch and delivery is straight out of that show, how did I never see this? I mentioned it to a friend who let me know it’s from a serious, SERIOUS, dark drama called Breaking Bad. Whaaaa?

I’m always glad to see him pop up in things – frankly, we didn’t see much of him as the world should have between Mr. Show and Breaking Bad. He had a regular spot on Larry Sanders and he directed a couple of comedies. I think Better Call Saul, the spin-off prequel of Breaking Bad, is a fantastic show.

The next step for Odenkirk I guess, now that he’s the star of such a great show, was to star in a movie. He’s been in a few things here and there but this is his first starring role in an action film, from the various stunt teams that brought us the John Wick movies. The director of this movie had made a first person view action movie called Hardcore Henry, which I haven’t seen, but it’s some kind of nonstop run from skydiving to shooting and fighting, even with a scene of defending someone akin to a video game where you have to make sure the baddies don’t blow up something you’re protecting…I mean, a video game you’re not playing. Maybe I’ll check it out.

Odenkirk is Hutch, who seems to have some kind of accounting job at his in-laws’ manufacturing plant. His wife is a successful realtor, and he has two kids. He has a daily grind of frustration and emasculation. One night there’s a burglary at his home, and his son is punched in the face by the robbers, who make off with Hutch’s watch and that’s pretty much it. With everyone reminding him what he didn’t do, Hutch has enough and goes on a search for the robbers.

Hutch is apparently the most special of special forces, as is quickly revealed. He ends up having sympathy for the robbers once he finds them, and heads home even more frustrated that he can’t really punish someone who is already having a bad time. BUT, in one of the best coincidences ever in an action movie that sets off the screaming id of our protagonist promised in the trailer, some ne’er-do-wells happen to have an accident next to the bus Hutch is on, and are allowed on the bus. I don’t know why the bus driver allows men involved in an accident to flee the scene on her bus and no one calls the police, but then Hutch’s hidden nature yearning to explode won’t, and then no movie, right?

It’s like if there’s a clever Jackie Chan fight of the combatants using the environment but without the finesse, but it’s Hutch clumsily teaching everyone a lesson at the expense of his health. He gets home and his wife is like “what?” and he’s like “tend to my wounds, and also don’t have any dialog for the rest of the movie,” and she never really questions anything or has any kind of freakout later about who she’s actually married to.

Continuing with the amazing coincidences, one of the guys Hutch leaves in the hospital with life-altering injuries (if he survives) is the brother of a Russian mobster who owns a club and is in charge of some sort of dark money laundering scheme. He sets out to find out who nearly killed his brother, and launches an attack on Hutch’s house, and from there Hutch goes on to rig things up like the A-Team to lead the legion of dispensable henchmen back to his in-laws’ factory for a bullet riddled showdown.

Could anyone have played Hutch’s role? Or can only Odenkirk with some training (from the star of the MST3K not-classic Future War episode) play this character? Is the appeal seeing a funny actor (how funny is Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul? He’s not the over the top sleazy lawyer all the time in BCS, so we’re already seeing him in a heavy drama) gun down and punch (in any order) various baddies? We get his internal monologue randomly through the film, much of it sounds like something you’d get out of Henry Rollins’ writings, describing the moments where he’s annoyed by various people acting like jackasses in his view. “I hope these guys like hospital food,” for instance. Like a lot of people who are the good guys who get shot, it’s superficial flesh wounds after the first “arrrgh!” and then you never see that character with limited mobility in that shoulder or leg going forward. And bullets fly from automatic machine guns held by paid killers and none of the bullets go through anything our heroes are standing behind. Mostly, what drags down the movie are the coincidences: what awakens the killer within are chance happenings with dummies who happen to be well-connected with evil people. This is a real danger for the everyman, not a hired killer ‘with a certain set of skills’ or whatever that we’ve already seen. Make it about him unable to hide from his past, and his arc would have more weight. Otherwise, things just happen, and he does or doesn’t succeed, but then nothing really happens with Hutch that makes witnessing his transition, if there is one other than an understanding with his cardboard cutout of a wife.

That’s a lot of bellyachin’, but I liked it. The action was really good, I enjoyed the goons, and it helped that Hutch’s past self emerging in the bus fist fight was a struggle to prove to himself that he was in fact not the weak person everyone thought he was. Though letting the burglars off the hook might be a strength that a movie like this is never going to acknowledge. Recommended, but, you know, not the deepest part of the cinematic ocean starring such a talented actor. Bob Odenkirk deserves good roles, and much attention – I hope this leads to more, and a sequel as equally fun but with more at stake.

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