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Nobody (2021)
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by Lybarger

"Better Call Assault."
3 stars

Screenwriter Derek Kolstad is best known for chronicling the history of virtuoso hit man John Wick. With two more sequels in the pipeline, Kolstad is clearly not eager the gravy train to end. As his latest movie indicates, he’s not even going to wait for Keanu Reeves to be available to launch another stylized bloodbath.

With a different leading man, Kolstad’s new story seems pretty similar to the other ones he’s already written. Until I saw the credits for Nobody, I thought a lesser writer had merely taken tracing paper to one of his John Wick scripts. Fortunately, Bob Odenkirk is just distinct enough from Reeves to make the familiar tropes seem less stale.

Whereas John Wick is a widower who’s justifiably mad about the murder of his dog, Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) is feeling inadequate because he froze after thieves broke into his home and assaulted his son (Gage Munroe). He’s got a dull, white-collar job and seems hesitant to stand up for himself when confronted.

As the film progresses, we learn that neither the Latinx thieves (Humberly González and Edsson Morales) nor the White victims are what they initially appear. Instead, of being sadistic criminals, the pair who broke into Hutch’s home are simply hard up for cash and used an unloaded pistol.

If Hutch is hesitant to strike home invaders or others, it’s not because he’s a wimp. It turns out that anyone foolish enough to cross him is a fool. Hutch may not wear high end suits like John Wick does, but he may not like himself after punching back.

Odenkirk, who became a star after playing the flamboyant, quick thinking and amoral attorney Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad, can also play characters who are low key without being bland. You get a sense that his hesitancy to speak masks an active mind that can outwit any potential antagonist.

Oh, and his aim and his punches are unerringly accurate.

Odenkirk might not have Reeves’ established action credentials, but he and director Ilya Naishuller (Hardcore Henry) handle the mayhem and the bloodshed with finesse. While we can be sure that the participants walked home after all the simulated violence, it sure doesn’t look as if they did.

If Kolstad delivers the same amount of gore and gunplay that his previous films did, the world depicted in Nobody isn’t as imaginative or well-conceived as the one in the existing John Wick movies. Connie Nielsen is overqualified to play Hutch’s oblivious wife, and his interactions with his son and his daughter (Paisley Cadorath) are more obligatory than illuminating.

Similarly, Alexey Serebryakov is delightfully unhinged as the Russian mobster who launches a crime spree that sets off Hutch, but the Eastern European gangsters he leads seem as if Kolstad’s imagination took a break after conceiving the intricate underworld that surrounds John Wick. The faceless suburbia is no match for the stylishly anachronistic backdrop for Reeves’ killing sprees. Because the John Wick movies clearly take place in an artificial environment, it’s easier to treat all the sadism as a fantasy. At times, Kolstad seems to be borrowing more for Death Wish than his own creation.

It’s a big step down.

Watching Odenkirk get in touch with his inner Charles Bronson is more fun than it should be. It’s still a shame that Kolstad can’t utilize Odenkirk’s formidable talents as well as Vince Gilligan has.

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originally posted: 03/26/21 16:24:18
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