In Hollywood, action stars are a dime a dozen. You can’t walk a block without tripping over a Jason Statham or Vin Diesel or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. But for the most part, all of these testosterone-fueled, muscle-bound cinematic tough guys have very similar energy. Nobody, the latest action film to borrow liberally from John Wick (and, to a lesser extent, Home Alone), is different. It capitalizes on the fact that it has the unlikeliest of action heroes in the lead role: Bob Odenkirk. And there’s only one like him. Although Nobody has its fair share of inventive action sequences, it really lives and dies on the strength of Odenkirk’s performance and his charismatic screen presence.
Hutch (Odenkirk) is the quintessential family man, living a life of suburban monotony that makes each day as uneventful and predictable as the last. But when a pair of petty criminals attempt a home invasion, a string of events falls into place that forces him to confront his past. Hutch has some skeletons in his closet, and once the long-buried, ultra-violent part of his personality awakens, it’s safe to say that he goes a little off the rails.
The number one best thing Nobody has going for it is the genius casting of Bob Odenkirk in the lead role. So many action films fall into the trap of using the secret double-life storyline while featuring an action star that you’d have to be a complete fool not to realize is a secret badass. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a bespectacled accountant, for example, is tricking no one. But the great thing about Odenkirk is how well he can play the completely unassuming, nondescript middle-aged white man — until you can see him flip a switch and morph into someone calm, resourceful, controlled, and terrifying. He’s an unexpectedly inspired choice, and the transition works so well because we completely buy into the meeker version of his character. He does feel like someone the CIA would send in to do their dirty work and then disappear, precisely because of how unmemorable he seems.
If you’re drawn to Nobody, you’re probably expecting some solid action set pieces, and you won’t be disappointed. It’s easy to see John Wick’s influence with its “everything’s a weapon” approach to fight choreography, although there’s a focus on inventiveness over physical agility here. Hutch is an effective brawler, if not a particularly elegant one, which feels natural given the character’s physical limitations. The choreography may not resemble an effortless dance, but it gets the job done and is captivating nonetheless for its sheer creativity. There’s an extended fight sequence aboard a city bus that marks a major shift in the film’s tone and is a brutal, relentless masterclass in claustrophobic combat.
As far as the narrative goes, it’s nothing we haven’t seen dozens of times before: tough guy gives up his tough-guy job to start a family, only to be dragged back into his old life by the Russian mob. But the most compelling aspect of Nobody is the nuance of Bob Odenkirk’s performance and how thoughtfully he transforms between the two halves of his identity. There are a lot of films like this that bask in their lead character’s return to violence as a sort of reclamation of his masculinity, but although Nobody is clearly playing with that idea (the condescending way the police officers treat Hutch after he puts down his weapon and lets the burglars get away, for example, shows how much they view him as a weak, emasculated man), Odenkirk takes it in a different direction.
There’s a sense of melancholy and resignation to the way he embraces violence — at first, he’s itching for a fight to let out some pent-up aggression, there are constant reminders that while this may be what he’s good at, it’s not what he wants. Hutch is one of the more intriguing retired assassins we’ve seen, and that’s entirely down to Odenkirk’s multifaceted character beats.
Let’s not overstate things: Nobody is an entertaining walk through well-trod territory. If you’re not a fan of this particular brand of revenge action movie, Nobody is unlikely to change your mind. But between the handful of cleverly conceived action sequences and an inspired turn from a very out-of-pocket Bob Odenkirk, it has plenty to recommend it. And as far as fun, shut-off-your-brain popcorn flicks go, Nobody is at the top of the pack.