By Lynn Venhaus
This is one of the most violent movies I have ever seen. That said, it is a mostly satisfying thriller of kick-it-up-a-notch action, interesting plot developments and a nimble cast that elevates the good vs evil throwdown.
An ordinary husband and father with a desk job, Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) is in a rut. Every day is monotonous and nondescript until intruders break into his suburban home, and while his son Blake (Gage Munroe) acts, he thinks twice before using a golf club he grabbed to defend himself. While everyone thinks he’s a chump, the incident sparks a long-simmering rage and he becomes a vigilante of sorts.
However, this isn’t as far-fetched as you think because he has a dark secret. When he gets in the way of a brutal drug lord (Aleksey Serebryakov), things really heat up.
From Charles Bronson’s “Death Wish” in 1974 that ushered in mild-mannered dads exacting their own street vengeance to Liam Neeson’s dangerous dad in the “Taken” trilogy (2008-2014) and all the copycats in between, these movies have an appeal as strictly black-and-white action, no gray areas or nuance, in seeking retribution. You get exactly what you expect.
With a sharp script by Derek Kolstad, co-creator of the John Wicks trilogy, the pleasures of seeing a regular Joe reveal his long-dormant lethal skills in clever ways are central to the secret identity plot.
Carrying the film with genuine authority is Bob Odenkirk, who not only stars but is a producer. The Chicago native attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale and after years as a comedy writer and performer, is now best known as glib attorney Jimmy McGill from “Breaking Bad,” which was spun off into the hit series “Better Call Saul.” The Emmy nominated actor’s keen sense of timing is a plus as an action hero, although he’s not a stranger to drama either, having appeared in “The Post” and “Little Women.”
Director Ilya Naishuller, an indie rock musician and lover of hard-core video games, kicks the film into high gear with non-stop mayhem after Hutch turns his frustration and anger into vengeance that sets into motion a battle royale with Russian drug lord Yulian Kuznetsov, played by Aleksey Serebryakov as a ruthless hothead with some clownish behaviors.
But first establishing the drudgery of Hutch’s daily life and his family dynamic is key to understanding the transformation and the shocking previous life.
Hutch works on the finances of his father-in-law’s manufacturing business. He’s the butt of his more macho brother-in-law Charlie’s jokes. His teenage son thinks he’s a wimp, unlike his younger daughter Abby (Paisley Cadorath) who adores him. His wife Becca (Connie Nielsen) is a successful realtor and distant. He keeps taking life’s indignities on the chin as a “nice guy.”
So, in the aftermath, when they are in further harm’s way, his sudden protective reflexes are a surprise.
Somehow, his dad David (Christopher Lloyd), a retired FBI agent living in a nursing home, and his brother Harry (RZA), do not raise an eyebrow when he must do what he has to do. After all, they have secrets too, and it is fun watching the tables turn. Lloyd and RZA are terrific in support.
The barrage of gunfire and fights gets tedious because of its take-no prisoners formula, but that’s what the action genre delivers, and the mind games are an interesting twist.
Hutch won’t be considered a “nobody” for much longer, and they did leave it open to a sequel. Odenkirk, as a new action star in the Jason Statham lane, is one of the more startling notes of the spring movie season. But I would never bet against him, would you?
“Nobody” is an action-thriller directed by Ilya Naishuller that stars Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, Aleksey Serebryakov, Christopher Lloyd, RZA, Gage Munroe and Paisley Cadorath. It is rated R for strong violence and bloody images, language throughout and brief drug use. Lynn’s Grade: B-. In theaters March 26.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.