As a comedic copy of “John Wick,” “Nobody” shouldn’t work as well as it does. But thanks to Bob Odenkirk’s deadpan humor and realistically violent action scenes, “Nobody” does for the male machismo action film what “Deadpool” did for the comic book movie genre.
Written by “John Wick” scribe Derek Kolstad, “Nobody” centers on Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk), an ordinary married guy with a routine job and two kids. Opening with a montage sequence showing every day is the same for Hutch (morning run, boring commute, missing the trash truck every Tuesday and being coldly reminded by his exasperated wife (Connie Nielsen)), Hutch’s life changes when he confronts two burglars in his home. As his son Blake (Gage Munroe) begins to fight one burglar, the other threatens a golf club-armed Hutch with a gun. Hutch doesn’t retaliate and the burglars leave, much to Blake’s disappointment that his dad didn’t take action. It’s no consolation when the police say Hutch did the right thing; Hutch knew the burglar’s gun was empty.
How did Hutch know? Hutch admits it in a mysterious phone call from an old associate Harry (RZA) and we realize Hutch has a darker past. During the robbery, Hutch is forced to give the burglars his watch, revealing tattoos that mark Hutch as a trained U.S. government “auditor.” As a one-man wrecking crew, we learn Hutch gave it up for suburban calm. However, Hutch begins to miss the violent life that’s his true nature. It only takes a small shove to push him back over the edge: the robbers taking his daughter’s bracelet and its recovery returns Hutch to the highway to Hell.
Normally, a movie like “Nobody” would be a pale copy or an exhausting spoof of “Wick” but Hutch’s character is so averagely well-built that the audience vicariously lives through him. In fight scenes where Hutch reaches for seat belt straps to wrap his knuckles before punching or when impaling a thug with a baseball bat he’s just broken over his knee, we wonder if we wouldn’t be that resourceful. Also, Hutch gets beaten as badly as he dishes it out- a refreshing take when we’re used to a slick action stars remaining unscathed.
As much as the Wickian template is placed on “Nobody” (complete with getting mixed up with the Russian mob, car chases and bullet-spraying booby traps), the movie really works as an homage to the star-fueled action films we love. With Hutch as the hero, the evasive ‘everyman’ capable of unleashing pain when necessary, we’re reminded of the films with John Wayne, Bronson, Lee Marvin, Eastwood, Bruce Lee, Seagal, Norris, Van Damme, Gibson, Willis, Jackie Chan, Neeson, Schwarzenenegger and Stallone (to name a few)- the guy with grit who pushes back harder when he’s pushed. It’s rare he won’t win, but he’ll go down swinging and take a bunch of bad guys with him if he doesn’t. What “Nobody” might lack in originality, it gains with a satisfying spin on our inherent love for the ordinary Joe doling out justice. By using subtle humor and playing it straight, “Nobody” succeeds where it otherwise might have s(t)unk.