Monotony can drive people to a breaking point. Going through the same boring and unfulfilling routine day after day is likely to result in the gradual building of resentment towards the world that denies them the opportunity for satisfaction and true happiness. People tend to lash out at individuals or groups they feel are to blame for what they have experienced, which may in some cases be legitimate and in others a baseless projection of hate on an easily targetable population. In real life, the consequences of such sentiments can be devastating. In cinema, they’re often merely popcorn fodder, as is absolutely the case in this unapologetically violent vehicle about a man who decides he’s no longer going to take anything from anyone.
Bob Odenkirk stars as Hutch Mansell, a man who has a mind-numbing commute to his mind-numbing job and never seems to see anything go right. The best example is the recurring montage that finds him running out each Tuesday morning to his curb with the trash bin, only to see him miss the garbage truck by just a few seconds every single time. When two masked intruders break into his home one night, he and his son have the chance to shoot them but Hutch chooses to let them go. At work the next morning, everyone – including his brother-in-law and father, who run the business – tell him he did the best he could, given who he is. Realizing that his daughter’s kitty-cat bracelet has been taken prompts him to finally talk and fight back, leading to a series of bloody beatdowns and unchecked collateral damage.
This film gets its title from an early line in which a bruised and smirking Hutch declares that he is, in fact, nobody, while being questioned by police. That’s misleading, of course, since Hutch is most definitely not your average anonymous everyman. The little that is revealed of his military training and intelligence background is sufficient to indicate that he is well worth fearing, and his effortless dispatching of multiple assailants with little more than his bare hands is proof enough that he doesn’t need to provide further credentials. He is absolutely somebody, but he has chosen to live a normal life, one that by definition means that he can’t utilize or flaunt his best assets.
It’s not the best time to be opening a film in which dozens of people are violently shot to death or executed in a much more brutal manner, given the recent recurrence of mass shootings and increased calls for gun control laws. Whether it is responsible for this film to put out this kind of content is up for debate, but it does affirm a Dexter-like mentality that only sinners are deserving of a cruel end. Though the complicity of minions working in low-level positions in a criminal organization isn’t given a second thought, only those who associate in some way with a nefarious entity or demonstrate amoral behavior are targeted for a merciless untimely death.
The audience likeliest to enjoy this film should imagine Liam Neeson as a probable considered candidate for the leading role, though the characters he most often plays don’t usually allow themselves to be treated like a doormat for as long as Hutch does. Once he attracts the attention of a mobster described as a “connected, funded sociopath with resources to make things complicated,” Hutch seems to delight in taking him down, explaining that he is the type of person who flashes a wad of cash hoping that someone will dare to try to pry it from his fingers. When he confronts a busload of drunken men harassing a woman on a bus, he pulls out a gun only to empty all the bullets and show that he’s looking forward to getting his hands dirty as he delivers on his promise to send them to the hospital.
Odenkirk has become known most recently for Better Call Saul, and he brings a perfect balanced of straightforward delivery and nuanced snark to make Hutch a very watchable protagonist. He’s believable as a man whose background is a mystery and who others have written off as an ineffective fool, unable to appreciate his hidden skills. It’s refreshing to see octogenarian Christopher Lloyd, who also appears in a far less memorable role in another release this week, Senior Moment, as Hutch’s retired former FBI agent father. His line delivery is superb, and it’s fun to see him find a great part that befits his age and signature voice.
This film employs an engaging, subtle sense of humor. When Hutch finally decides to share the details of his background with someone, it’s a bad guy he’s just taken out who dies before he’s had a chance to get to the big reveal. The script is full of clever dialogue exchanges, and the music choices, like “What a Wonderful World” as bodies burn or “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar during a car chase, are strong and add a good deal to the overall effect of the film. The involvement of screenwriter Derek Kolstad is a boon to the film’s success, as he brings with him considerable experience in this genre from the first three John Wick movies (read more on his work here).
It would be a stretch for anyone who has seen Odenkirk’s face being punched from multiple directions on this film’s poster or even knows nothing more than the title to presume that this film is going to be anything but what it is. It’s not about morality or about fixing the world’s problems. It’s not a justification for violence as a response to someone having a bad day or being constantly belittled. It is, however, a well-paced action film, and it’s not trying to be more than that.
Nobody opens in theaters on Friday, March 26th.