Man, who had weaselly Bob Odenkirk as The New Liam Neeson in the “savage cinema of the future” pool?
The “Saturday Night Live” writer, “Drunk History” mainstay, dopey “How I Met Your Mother” boss and “Breaking Bad” breakout/spinoff star completes his journey to “fiftysomething dude you don’t want to mess with” in “Nobody.” It’s the latest thriller built out of the suburban Dad, Mom or whoever with “particular skills,” skills that only come to the fore when somebody without a clue does him or her a great wrong.
It’s a little “John Wick,” a bit of “Taken,” a touch of “The Accountant,” and so on. These characters just “want to be left alone.” Thank heavens there’s always somebody not interested in keeping the peace.
Our guy is introduced, bruised and bloodied, in police custody and that immortal question is snapped in his direction by befuddled cops.
“Who the hell are you?”
“Me? I’m NObody!”
It all started with a home invasion. Mild-mannered Hutch (Odenkirk) comes at the intruders with a 3-wood, but holds back. His teen son (Gage Munroe) gets the drop on them, but Dad backs off. The kid shames him. A neighbor gives Hutch the “I wish they’d come in MY house,” a cop rolls his eyes even as he’s saying “You did the right thing.”
His wife? She (Connie Nielsen) gives him a look of pained pity.
But we’ve seen him size the intruders up, notice a tattoo and make note of them. Whatever his “you being you” day job — half-bullied accountant at a machine shop run by his father-in-law (Michael Ironside) — we figure there’s something he’s not telling us, some reason for deciding to “minimize the damage.”
But when his little girl’s kitty cat bracelet goes missing, that’s it. Time to hit the mean streets — of Winnipeg, Manitoba — and take care of business.
“John Wick” screenwriter Derek Kolstad has used Russian villains before, so why not Canadian Russians here? “Nobody” also has much of the savagery and a similarly droll-about-his-skills hero.
“I used to be an auditor” for some agency, Hutch explains, “the LAST guy you want to see” type.
Kolstad and “Hardcore Henry” director Ilya Naishuller don’t bother to hide the borrowings from “John Wick.” No Lance Reddick or Peter Stormare here. We have Christopher Lloyd (Hutch’s nursing home-bound Dad) and RZA (as Hutch’s advisor and tie to his old life) instead.
RZA is a fair action director himself. Wonder if he took notes on set? Because Naishuller puts on a clinic on how to give a formula thriller violence that pops and comedy that takes a little of the edge off.
Musical counterpoints to the brawls and shootouts range from Tchaikovsky and Pat Benatar to Nina Simone, Louis Armstrong, Gerry and the Pacemakers and…Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme’.
And Odenkirk, far more EveryMan than say, Man Mountain Liam Neeson in the “Taken” films and their variations, does what he does in most of his screen appearances. He under-reacts. He’s capable in the fight scenes and deadpan everywhere else. His best lines are growled in voice-over.
“I hope these ass—-s like hospital food.”
Our villain (Aleksey Serebryakov) is just good enough, even if he’s playing a Russian mob “type” that’s been worn out over the past 20 years of action pics.
“Eeef you cannot recognize wolf eeen sheep’s clothing, I kvestion the viability of your EMPLOYMENT here.”
There may be nothing new to “Nobody.” But Odenkirk & Crew make sure that this mass production action movie has plenty of bespoke fun stitched in.
MPA Rating: R for strong violence and bloody images, language throughout and brief drug use
Cast: Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, Aleksey Serebryakov, Michael Ironside, Christopher Lloyd and RZA.
Credits: Directed by Ilya Naishuller, script by Derek Kolstad. A Universal release.
Running time: 1:32