Nobody MA. 92 minutes. 4 stars
Those John Wick films have been an interesting phenomenon on the cinema landscape. They have given Keanu Reeves the next 30 or 40 years of his career as an ageing badass, much like the niche Liam Neeson has been able to carve out for himself with the Taken films.
And for the behind-the-screen talent who worked on John Wick comes the chance to milk every cent out of the experience for years to come. Wick screenwriter Derek Kolstad has taken the Wick concept and channeled it into the screenplay for Nobody. Like Wick, it is about a man who just wants to live a quiet suburban life but is pushed to his limits by the violence of others.
The film's distributors obviously wanted the Wick audience to identify with the film - the movie poster for Nobody looks almost exactly like the John Wick one, with the beaten and bruised face of Bob Odenkirk surrounded by a circle of fists. (It is a circle of guns around Keanu in the John Wick poster).
And just like John Wick, Odenkirk's Hutch Mansell delivers a satisfying smorgasbord of schadenfreude and ultra violence.
Hutch (Bob Odenkirk) is a quiet-living auditor working for his father-in-law's auto industry factory, a job he commutes to by public transport. His days are mundane and repetitive, cooking breakfast for his family, jogging around his neighbourhood, and spending his nights sleeping in the same bed as his real estate agent wife Becca (Connie Nielsen), but with a pillow between them. Breaking up this predictable daily schedule are occasional visits to Hutch's dad (Christopher Lloyd) in his retirement home, watching old Westerns together.
Their quiet suburban existence is shattered one night when a ski-masked couple break into the family home. Hutch surprises the pair but he seems timid and not wanting the potential violence in the situation to escalate, he hands over the family's change-bowl and his watch.
When Hutch's son Blake (Gage Munroe) tackles one of the departing intruders, his son is devastated when dad tells him to let the intruder go. Sporting a black eye, his son spends the next few days surly, and illusions about his father-as-protector shattered.
But the experience has unlocked something in Hutch. Riding the city bus home one night, some young thugs board and start to look like they're going to brutalise a young woman travelling alone. Hutch won't have a bar of this, and we come understand that Hutch was sitting on a particular set of skills himself. One by one, he absolutely decimates the very deserving brutes.
One of these young men just happens to be the younger brother of the violent and sadistic Russian Mafia fixer Yulian (Aleksey Serebryakov) who discovers the identity of the bus attack vigilante and send a convoy of thugs to Hutch's quiet suburban home for retribution.
As Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman, "Big mistake. Huge."
The Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul has finally made a star of its lead actor Bob Odenkirk whose career has included a number of years in the Saturday Night Live cast, and as writer and director of his own material including Mr Show and recurring roles in The Larry Sanders Show and How I Met Your Mother. Saul made him a gritty sad clown but Nobody stands to make him the star of his own franchise as disaffected badass who is too old for this shit.
The film is enjoyable in its own right, but I particularly love the hinted-at unanswered questions posed by screenwriter Kolsted. We come to understand some of Hutch's real background and I won't spoil that for you, but as the film propels itself to an epic and violent showdown against the Russian Mafia, we meet a few colleagues of Hutch's and the stage may be set for some ongoing adventures or possibly a dive into the characters' pasts. In some of the film's press interviews, the screenwriter seems to hint that a John Wick crossover might even be possible.
Odenkirk is a believable former tough guy gone the tiniest bit soft around the edges, and the film's fight choreography is still cinematically implausible while being believably non-comic-book in its delivery. More MacGyver than Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Great to see a few familiar faces looking a bit older but welcome sights. The character actor Michael Ironside as Hutch's father-in-law, Christopher Lloyd as his dad, and Wu-Tang Clan rapper-turned-actor RZA in a role I won't spoil.
The Russian star of Oscar-nominated Leviathan Aleksey Serebryakov gives a brilliant flashy and odd performance as the egocentric Mafia thug.
Nobody feels like the cinematic brother to one of my favourite films of recent years, Michael Caine's Harry Brown, equally as violent and satisfying.