First, Liam Neeson changed the course of his career with Taken. Then, Reeves found his gun-fu again in John Wick. Now, Nobody introduces us to another ex-special ops man trying to move on with his life has risen to protect… well… suburbia.
Nobody introduces the world to Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk), a middle-aged man trapped in a cycle of routine. Though he adores his wife and kids, Mansell is stuck in a dead-end job and clearly feels dejected as he attempts to navigate life in the suburbs. However, after a home invasion shakes up his world, Mansell’s long-simmering inner rage is unleashed upon those who broke into his home. When a brutal attack leads to the death of a mob boss’ son, Mansell suddenly must defend his family from a dangerous adversary bent on revenge.
Penned by the writer of John Wick, Nobody definitely falls in line with that particular franchise. Violent, vicious but also hilarious at times, Nobody is a tonne of fun. Directed by Ilya Naishuller (Hardcore Henry), the film puts a heavy emphasis on the violence of its action set pieces. Even so, while the blood flows freely, Naishull gives these scenes a bounce and elegance that keeps the tone fairly light as opposed to horrify. Backed by a solid cast (including the most entertaining performance by Christopher Lloyd in years), Odenkirk brings a surprisingly brutal energy that lights up the screen. As a middle-aged man pushed too far, Odenkirk is absolutely delightful as the former military man who wants to convince everyone—including himself—that his past is behind him. At the same time, the normally comedic actor completely commits to the action scenes and throw himself into the mix in such a way that you can’t help but enjoy watching. Although he plays the role with the utmost seriousness, there’s simply an affability around him that makes him enjoyable to watch.
What sets Nobody apart from the Wick films though is that Mansell is just waiting for an excuse to return to his old life. Whereas Wick is dragged back into the underworld with the death of his dog, Mansell begins the series of events himself out of his own pent-up rage. Feelings of inferiority combined with the inevitable routine of life, Mansell feels as though he’s lost a part of himself and the stress continues within him builds until he explodes. (“There’s a part of me that’s been awakened apparently,” he recognizes.) In doing so, however, his actions create a cycle of violence that continues to escalate. Nevertheless, despite his own culpability, the film never judges him for his actions and he’s held up as the hero.
That’s where things get interesting.
Through its celebration of violence, the film also unintentionally (or intentionally?) celebrates toxic masculinity. Because of his love for his family and desire to protect others, one can’t help but like Mansell. At the same time, however, the film uses its revenge fantasy element to breathe life into him. This is a world where women are resided to the basement (literally) when the violence breaks out. While may be a fun ride as an action film, Mansell’s character becomes problematic as it upholds the current trend of the ‘angry, middle class male’.
Trapped by the feeling of weakness when his family is attacked, Mansell has lost a sense of himself, especially as everyone around him seems to point out how pathetic he has become. (“You did the right thing for you… but if it was my family,” he’s told by a police officer.) By highlighting the restlessness that’s gnawing at Mansell from within, Nobody validates his unleashing of rage as an act of reclaiming his manhood. Here, Mansell has a renewed sense of confidence and vigour. Suddenly, the repressed male becomes the actualized male. (Due to the fun nature of the world and action scenes, one only hopes that this is lack of awareness is balanced out with stronger female representation in the inevitable sequel.)
With the home video release, one can’t deny that the film looks great in 4K. Nobody takes its set pieces seriously enough that the digital release helps augment the fun. At the same time, while the bonus features are sparse, there are some interesting tidbits that come out through them. (Like the fact that the story was inspired by actual events in Odenkirk’s life!) A behind-the-scenes featurette and bonus scenes are expected but there’s also a solid feature-length commentary included as well which lets Odenkirk and his team delve into the world that they have created together.
While the film certainly requires some reflection in regards to its masculine stereotypes, it is still a visual treat with its choreography and gunplay. Like Neeson and Reeves, Odenkirk has found new life in an action franchise that reinvents him as an actor. Personally though, I just hope that future entries in the franchise help this Nobody to be more inclusive to everybody.
Nobody is available in theatres and on VOD on Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021.