Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Action Watch: Nobody (2021)

Watched:  01/23/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Director:  Ilya Naishuller

Had COVID not been a factor, I would have probably seen Nobody (2021) in the theater.  It seemed like a simple movie - and it is.  It's an excuse for both a middle-aged-guy action fantasy, as well as videogame-style super action, just below the absurdities of John Wick (worth noting, this is written by the same guy, Derek Kolstad).  The kind of movie where our hero cannot be killed even if 20 guys with guns are coming at him and he does Krav Maga and Gun-Fu while they come at him, inexplicably, one on one and the baddies can't hit the hero when they all shoot at him for 30 feet away.

It doesn't mean it isn't fun.  It is!  

Look, I was fully onboard the first John Wick until it moved into the hotel and mentally just stayed there for 2.5 movies.  That whole idea wasn't my jam.  It's like watching someone else play a video game with a hokey set-up.  But Nobody - while suggesting a world of covert special forces, etc...  - never lingers too long in the hyper-reality portions of the story.  There may be tattoos signifying ideas to characters, but they aren't swapping magical game pieces to each other, like that would mean anything in a world of murder-for-hire.

Instead, we get devoted family man,  Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk), who gave up the life a long time ago.  He keeps in shape, he still has all the old instincts, but he's dulled all of it down.  Now he just goes to work for his in-laws, forgets to take out the trash the night before trash day, and and seems caught in a joyless, endless suburban loop with a sweet six-year-old daughter who wants a cat, a teenage son who thinks his dad sucks and a wife growing ever more distant (Connie Nielsen).  No one is aware of his past.

One night a couple of hoods break into his house, and while he's got the drop on them, he doesn't do anything until his son leaps on one of them - and Hutch insists he let them go.  For the next twenty-four hours, his wife seems more ready than ever to leave, his son won't look at him, and his neighbors and in-laws give him grief for not "kicking ass".  Learning his daughter's kitty-cat bracelet is missing, Hutch decides to go retrieve it, only to learn the thieves are just desperate new parents, and he's thwarted in what he believes will be some redemption.  

Until some very real bad dudes get on the bus he's taking home, and Hutch decides to take them apart.  Which triggers a very John Wick-esque pursuit by the Russian mafia.  

Queue an hour solid of ultraviolence, Christopher Lloyd having a blast and RZA showing up.  

Odenkirk is maybe an unlikely action star from his Mr. Show days, but he's had a hell of a decade, and someone figured out that a world-weary Odenkirk is an amazing fit for someone who seems like an everyman, but who could also be a seething beast under it all.  

There's a certain joy in watching Hutch cut loose - despite their vast numbers and the fact they started it, Hutch is not the one with something to lose here.  He's willing to burn it all down to achieve his objectives, and that burning goes both ways.  Frankly, I thought Odenkirk was great in this movie- and while I would never argue that John Wick takes itself seriously, the complexity of the world they're introducing is so absurd, it weighs everything down.  Nobody has the advantage of saying "these are just worse than average mobsters" and "they meet a guy who can kill a whole lotta people and really take a punch to the face."  

Of course, along the way he and Connie Nielsen rekindle their passion, his kids see dad differently, and his dad gets a second lease on life.  

It's not going to win any awards, but as a middle-aged guy, it's a fun watch.  I mean, it's excessively violent, nonsensical and probably bad for me.  But it's been a while since I sat through a whole action movie by myself when a podcast wasn't at stake or some kind of commitment.  

Sure, the movie wants to set up sequels, and maybe they'll get a few.  I can't imagine it won't get very silly, very fast if they do.  But I liked this one, at least.

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