Define entertainment. Some might argue that entertainment requires originality to be worth anything of value. Some might counter that thought by saying something is entertaining solely for leaning on conventions that make it pleasant to experience and not stressing over the unexpected. Thus, the material can be enjoyed. What makes Nobody particularly intriguing is not the fact it's very much written in the vein of John Wick (Particularly sharing the same screenwriter, Derek Kolstead), but rather it's devotion to the structure created by Kolstead in his previously successful series (That is currently on it's fourth installment) and the full-threaded devotion of the actors involved in bringing Nobody to the screen. Particularly, in the most shocking (Yet crucial aspect), Bob Odenkirk in the lead role as Hutch Mansell. Known more for his witty banter as Saul Goodman in the Breaking Bad franchise, Odenkirk masterfully uses his unsuspecting demeanor and skittish exterior to disarm you, ultimately driving the entire film with his devotion to the physicality. It is this differentiation from Keanu Reeves' more forefront intimidation in John Wick that allow Nobody to stand on it's own.
It's important to understand that, in many ways, Nobody is meant to be an inverse of John Wick at it's core. Unlike Reeves' tale of a legendary assassin coming out of retirement as a way of processing his grief, Odenkirk's character is looking for a fight. Immediately established is his desire to use his former skills is boiling at the surface at every turn. While set off by single traumatic event like John Wick, Hutch is not looking for peace. In fact, he's found a peaceful existence...yet he misses the violence. He uses the traumatic event as an excuse to embrace his inner rage. And this clear distinction is why the film is so interesting is Odenkirk is given a character whose conscience is constantly at war with a hunger for righteousness and giving bad guys their just desserts. Yet, he's bound by law and that offers more relatability for the audience. Odenkirk carries the entire film with this borderline unhinged approach and embraces it in the action scenes which, unlike John Wick, are far more raw. One might argue the fight scenes would be at home in B-movie grindhouse cinema. Blood, brutality, and commitment to each smashing of bone or glass offer an alternative to the fancier choreography of Wick. Perhaps this is the point of Kolstead writing this film. Offering a contrast as Hutch is a former government agent, not an assassin. He's a good guy with more imperfection than John as a fighter and as such Combined with the family dynamic) his frailties offer more stakes, but he goes through similar motions as Wick. And the result is a more pleasantly fun action film that doesn't require someone to deal with the unexpected. With everything hyper-focused through Odenkirk's character and his arc, the film doesn't fall flat emotionally. That's not to say it's not without flaws.
For the most part, the rest of the cast is kept in their boxes to play off Odenkirk's journey. Connie Nielsen's wife character Becca does pretty much what's expected of her, distant yet supportive of Hutch. Aleksei Serebryakov's villainous role as Yulian Kuznetsov is charmingly eccentric yet serves as a cracked mirror image of Hutch with karaoke sequences that transition into displays of his Russian drug lord archetype. Yet, equal to Hutch, you spot a somewhat disgruntled figure in Yulian, one that makes him a little more than standard bad guy fare. Perhaps Christopher Lloyd's performance as David Mansell (Hutch's retired FBI father) deserves the most credit as Lloyd is given very little screen time, yet soaks up every scene with humorous subtly that almost winks at the audience in splendor even when it's just a faint smile or old-man groan.
That splendor is shared and embodied in the film's soul by David Buckley's score that throws jazz and rock and roll hits into the mix to offer what the film truly is. It's a greatest hits of action cinema and it delivers as such. Director Ilya Naishuller himself has come a long way from directing, writing, producing and...well everything else to the mixed received 2015 film Hardcore Henry. Naishuller keeps the madness of that film and has since learned to keep the pace right in each scene. Nobody is a kinetically driven dance and if audiences need more than that, look elsewhere. Odenkirk gives the film soul, but it's an old soul and that is a welcome Friday night experience.
Performances (Odenkirk, Serebryakov, Lloyd).
Fairly played out story, though well-used in guiding Hutch's journey.