Best described as an action thriller for people with John Updike or John Cheever on their bookshelves, Nobody – which recently hit video-on-demand after initially landing in theaters last month – is a high-octane bullet-fest where middle-class, suburban ennui serves as one of the bad guys. This is American Beauty with gunfire.
The Lester Burnham in this case is Hutch Mansell, played by Bob Odenkirk. Mansell’s life is on a soul-crushing loop: taking the bus, going to work, trying to be there for his wife (Connie Nielsen) and two kids (Gage Munroe, Paisley Cadorath), always missing the garbage truck on pickup day, etc.
Things start getting interesting when burglars rob Mansell’s home and the man of the house doesn’t do much to stop them. While this incident makes Mansell look like a pussy in the eyes of his more macho neighbors and co-workers, little do they know that this timid Everyman is actually a former government assassin who’s trying not to let his lethal side come out and play. (Mansell apparently comes from a family of ex-hitmen, which includes Christopher Lloyd as his retired dad and RZA as his in-hiding brother.)
It eventually does when he gets into an insane bus brawl with a gang of obnoxious thugs, messing each and every one of them up, not to mention himself. (Hey, the man is middle-aged — he definitely can’t take those hits like a champ anymore.) It turns out one of those thugs is the brother of a flamboyant, Russian mobster (Aleksey Serebryakov), who obviously goes on to exact revenge. He soon finds this is easier said than done, especially once our boy starts wiping out killers who come after him and his family.
Yes, Nobody is John Wick with a mortgage. (Wick screenwriter Derek Kolstad wrote the script, while producer David Leitch served as one of the producers.) But unlike the Wick films, where Keanu Reeves keeps getting forced to come out of serene retirement to once again become an unstoppable killing machine, the ex-hired gun hero of Nobody seems itching to get out of his middle-aged rut and start busting heads again. (It’s a good thing he’s living in a city that’s inexplicably swarming with Russian mobsters.)
It is quite unusual seeing Odenkirk (who also serves as a producer) get into man-of-action mode, expertly serving up cans of whoop-ass in one action sequence after another, all stylishly captured by Hardcore Henry director Ilya Naishuller. But, then again, Odenkirk has always been an unusual fella. After all, this is a man who started in comedy — writing for Saturday Night Live in the ‘80s, co-helming the cult skitcom Mr. Show with David Cross — before assuming the role of morally ambiguous lawyer Saul Goodman (aka Jimmy McGill) in the uber-acclaimed dramas Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
Odenkirk does play middle-aged malaise quite well. He spends the first third of the movie looking consistently defeated, rocking a grizzled five o’clock shadow that practically indicates how much dude has given up on being a presentable adult. Before the men (and women) with guns start showing up, he was already getting the crap kicked out of him by life on a daily basis. But all the danger wakes his ass up, making him feel alive for the first time in a long while.
It kinda makes me chuckle at how Nobody is really a movie about how pulverizing being a responsible adult can be. Movies about former killers trying to live a boring, domestic existence is nothing new. (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie practically began their high-profile relationship starring as husband-and-wife hitpeople in Mr. & Mrs. Smith over 15 years ago.) But Nobody really has fun with it, giving you a bloody, balls-to-the-wall portrait of a suburban family man getting out of his tedious, regular routine and returning to being the reckless sonofabitch he once was. Basically, Nobody is a wish-fulfillment fantasy for guys who own minivans.
“Nobody” is now available for online rental.