As NOBODY opens, we see our lead Hutch (Bob Odenkirk) sitting at an interrogation table smoking a cigarette and being asked to identify himself. Hutch calls himself “a nobody”. Suddenly, we go back in time and make his acquaintance. Hutch is a guy with his work and life routine. He’s a family man working a 9-to-5 job and also has enough room in his life to care about his kids. One night, a break-in happens and Hutch lets the two bad guys go for some unknown reason. His son despises him for this, as does his neighbor. But when it’s revealed that a prized possession, he snaps.
At this point, NOBODY becomes something more interesting. The opening act of NOBODY really impressed me with its combination of quick cuts to simulate the day-to-day routine, then slightly longer takes when we see this world build. It keeps us not only interested, but gets us guessing. There’s a deep menace underneath and a long-buried past that Hutch has clearly left behind him, and as NOBODY develops we learn more about a violent past and exactly what he had to leave behind.
This sounds more serious than what I am describing, but the action-fan in me felt totally refreshed with this familiar concept in a very fresh way. It’s always proof that the less you know about movies these days before going into them, the better. It has been said by me many times before that I never watch clips or trailers for movies as they always reveal too much and sell the sizzle. I usually go by what I read online or by recommendations. When my Twitter feed blew up with raves about NOBODY, especially from a few people I trust, of course I wanted to listen.
Having not seen the likes of BREAKING BAD and BETTER CAUL SAUL (because I am absolutely terrible with the following series shows), I was not expecting lead Bob Odenkirk to be the lead in a picture like this, much less an action hero. I do remember him from the Alexander Payne movie NEBRASKA all the way back in 2013, which made my Top 10 list that year. Almost pushing 60 years old, he initially comes across as too old at the start yet thanks to the clever progress of the story, he’s the perfect fit. A lot of the genius of NOBODY rests on his acting-is-reacting approach to everything around him, and especially in situations where Hutch has to reveal a particular explosion device with a deadpan expression. It gets even more mileage out of support from the legendary Christopher Lloyd as his father who has a past of his own, and RZA as a significant benefactor in Hutch’s past. Bonus points to Connie Nielsen as Hutch’s wife who has some unique reactions of her own.
Filmmaker Ilya Naishuller, who made the delirious HARDCORE HENRY (a movie I didn’t love as much as others and felt its POV nature would have faired better as a short film) a few years ago stages a more wide-screen, detailed approach than the entirely point-of-view perspective. One of his standouts is a sequence on a bus involving a few bad guys versus Hutch just after he starts on his journey. At that point we don’t know his background so the sequence takes on a life of its own as it’s incredibly violent and Hutch takes a LOT of physical damage, making us unsure exactly what is going on. A lesser movie would have just had a bigger reveal of Hutch’s back-story and have him swing into action immediately, but the filmmakers are wise to show this sequence in a totally different way and let the rest of the movie build on it. It’s a brilliant move.
Throughout, it’s a slow build and even at a quick 90 minutes, there are a LOT of great things going on with NOBODY; I loved the process and how it follows it all the way through with just an even amount of action, dark humour and strong character notes. Slick and ultraviolent with a lot of dark humour, it’s just the way I like it.
NOBODY is currently in theatres where available and I am HOPING there will be a video-on-demand option coming soon! Thanks as always to Universal for sending along a screener link.