May 7, 2021 | LIFE | By Andrew Rodden | Illustration by Xixi Qin
Bob Odenkirk stars in “Nobody,” one of the more confusing movies to bring up in conversation (ask your friends “Anyone want to go see ‘Nobody’ tomorrow?” as a fun party trick).
It took all I could muster to avoid making bad puns with the title of Ilya Naishuller’s sophomore feature film (e.g., “Nobody saw Bob Odenkirk starring in an action movie!”) However, the movie is a pleasant breath of fresh air as a barebones action flick, standing in stark contrast among a bloated genre.
“Nobody” cuts to the chase, opening with main character Hutch (Odenkirk) sitting in an interrogation room, his face bloodied and battered. He pulls out a cigarette and a cat from his jacket (a badass who’s nice to cats, what more can a screenwriter ask for?), and the police ask him who he is. At first glance, he truly is a nobody – a washed-up dud who always misses trash day and never has sex with his wife.
However, we slowly learn this guy is a former “auditor,” someone sent around to do the CIA’s dirty work. One evening, his house gets broken into, and Hutch finally snaps: no one messes with his family. After locating and taking care of the thieves who stole his watch, he beats up a busload of nasty men, pissing off the Russian Mob in the process. Just a day in the life for Hutch.
Alongside Odenkirk, “Nobody” stars RZA, Christopher Lloyd (who looks like he’s having the time of his life in this movie), and who’s that, legendary Michael Ironside as Hutch’s father-in-law?
Heed the film’s warning: don’t underestimate seemingly washed dudes who were cool in their glory days – chances are they’re still cool, maybe even cooler. The cast is stacked with such dudes.
“Nobody” is trim and slim, a noble soldier standing up to the beefy multi-hour superhero movies we’re unhealthily growing accustomed to – you could watch “Nobody” twice in the time it takes to watch “Avengers: Endgame” once.
The pragmatic movie spares us the non-essentials, conveying only what is necessary to the story and action. This does come off as formulaic, and shots were often cut several seconds too short, which was likely an attempt to get below the 100-minute mark.
Take the beginning of the film for example, where Hutch slogs through each day of the week, becoming more bored with each passing Monday, Tuesday, and so on. We cut between each day, the rhythm increasing right along with the monotony, but each shot feels too short, too rushed.
I imagine this was a studio head telling director Ilya Naishuller “I like it, but make it shorter,” which, don’t get me wrong, can be a good thing. But while going wild with the razor tool can spare an audience boring fluff, it’ll lead to pacing weirdness if you’re not careful, which is what happened here.
Nothing about “Nobody” is new, and it’s not a perfect movie by any means. But it recognizes its plot holes, and fully understands the tone and atmosphere it shoots for (and achieves).
The movie never tries to be something it isn’t (or can’t back up with substance). Mid-budget action films like this are a relic of the past; either movies are strung along on indie shoestring budgets or given hundreds of millions of dollars to try to be the next “Avengers.”
Fun, unassuming action movies like “Nobody” remind us that we can go to the movies without any expectations and walk out having had a good time. Why pretend a beefy action film like [insert any Marvel movie here] is high art cinema, when movies like “Nobody” simply have fun without any of those gross, hyper-corporate expectations?
“Nobody” is showing in theaters and available for rent online.