Nobody

Nobody ★★★½

It actually isn't that surprising that Bob Odenkirk is headlining an action movie. It's not just that his work on Breaking Bad and Better Caul Saul lays out a step-by-step guide on how to get from sketch comedy to action heroics; start off as the light relief character on a crime show, which then gets built up until you lead your own spin-off thriller, and there you have it. It's also Nobody is unusually alert to the generic ambiguity of Odenkirk's presence. We're introduced to his character Hutch Mansell as he refuses to fight a pair of armed robbers who are threatening his son. We know that this can't be who he is, if only because we know what kind of movie we've paid to see. But the wider community see this as evidence that Hutch is an irretrievably emasculated, meek, suburban loser, and this plot beat works because Odenkirk would be a good casting choice for that kind of character as well.

Derek Kolstad's script works from the same archetype as his earlier screenplay for John Wick; an apparently mild-mannered everyman has an ominous background that resurfaces when someone threatens his loved ones. It would be fair to say, though, that Kolstad's template hasn't worked this well since the first John Wick. The standard-issue Russian gangsters are lent a bit more personality by casting actual Russian actors - the film's director, Ilya Naishuller, is among them. The soundtrack includes a wonderfully unexpected collection of classic ballads and show tunes, earning a particularly big laugh by scoring Hutch's slow build-up to violence with 'I've Gotta Be Me'.

The tension of who, exactly, Hutch has gotta be - the family man or the man of violence - isn't as fraught as it would be in a Western or a superhero film. Peter Parker has to go back home to his crappy apartment after a day fighting crime, Ethan Edwards knows he's fated to never have a home. Hutch Mansell burns down his own house at one point, and it's meant to get us pumped for the start of Act Three. Nobody still works because it's made with fundamentally good instincts. The violence is as heavy and frequent as you'd expect from a film produced by David Leitch, but the broken bones and blood spurts aren't lingered on as much as they are in Leitch and Chad Stahelski's usual work. I am starting to wonder if the usual Leitch-Stahelski style of action only works in the very particular universe of the John Wick movies; it felt strangely gratuitous in both the more realistic, historical setting of Atomic Blonde and the loopy comic-book world of Birds of Prey.

There's a nice one-scene cameo in here for Colin Salmon in here as 'The Barber', the kind of vaguely mythic underworld figure that the Wick movies make a big deal out of. It works well as a grace note, but I'd hope that the inevitable sequel - and judging by this movie's $16 million budget and $54 million gross, it probably is inevitable - remembers to keep one foot in the mundane world of suburbia. Like its star, the pleasure of Nobody lies in how nimbly it can shift registers.

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