Pure action driven films have become quite stagnant over the past decade outside of films such as Mission Impossible: Fallout, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, and Skyfall. The genre is clearly dissipating, as one will probably associate any recent action-driven film to be starring Liam Neeson. Well, I am happy to say that Nobody sparks a little life into the genre. The film follows a family man, Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk), who fails to defend himself or his family after two-thieves break in and hold them at gunpoint. Once members of the public repetitively harass Hutch with their idea on “what they would do”, his repressed skill-set and dark history begin to reveal itself.
Get ready, those comparisons to John Wick are coming and I completely understand where that logic comes from as each minute bleeds elements of the John Wick franchise. However, it doesn’t feel necessary to compare the two as they offer two unique experiences. The immediate comparison are the two lead actors at the helm of these films in Bob Odenkirk and Keanu Reeves, both in their late 50s. Odenkirk is primarily a dramatic actor, and that acting background provides a bit more depth as Odenkirk provides a more nuanced take on the emotions behind the action hero. Reeves offers more of a physical presence to his films and a controlled approach to the stunt-work in the film. Odenkirk’s performance allows us to feel the humanity behind the ruthless action hero and feel a sense of vulnerability for him which makes the stakes feel more meaningful behind each action set-piece.
The problem with the clear and often heavy-handed inspiration from John Wick is that it prevents Nobody from truly creating its own identity. Nobody possesses the same narrative characteristics that are tied closely with John Wick. Both are short movies at 92 and 102 minutes apiece, opening with a basic premise which provides a simple motivation for the lead character to go on a bloody hell-bent mission against the mob. Beyond this, it did not much else to distinguish the two films besides Odenkirk’s ability to portray his inner-frustrations and the missing Leitch-Stahelski effect that John Wick had the advantage of. Nobody can be credited by showing us that someone beside Liam Neeson can act in these action-driven films, and that not having much depth to the narrative isn’t always a bad thing.
The narrative may lack depth to it, but the excellent pacing voids the need for the viewer to find ‘the hook’ in the story that will keep them invested. The film is powerful at establishing its breakneck pace and keeping that consistent to the finish line. There are Edgar Wright-esque editing moments that communicate substantial information in quick snippets, which are quite effective. Director, Ilya Naishuller, keeps this film self-contained to a 92 minute runtime, allowing intensity to be consistent through each scene as it allows very little breathing room. Nobody may not have the same appeal of John Wick and perhaps it can only exist as a one time success as the thin narrative may not offer further material beyond this.
While it may not be as visually appealing as the John Wick franchise, Nobody does a fine job in establishing itself as an action film. Visually there are next to zero CGI sequences, but where this film really excels is in its makeup and fight choreography. The hand to hand combat is not as quick or sleek as most action films, but is quite realistic in terms of the character that is taking part in the fight sequences. Hutch Mansell coming out of retirement as a secret agent assassin clearly shows in his fights as he is often sluggish, messy and fatigues easily, yet he still has the ability, smarts and timing to get the upper hand on his opponents during his fight scenes. Most action films when it comes to the use of blood is either over the top or just not enough, Nobody really excels in this area as they have managed to strike a perfect balance of gore and realistic injuries.
Nobody is a film that utilises both an original score and soundtracks throughout its runtime. The soundtrack choices are mainly played when there is a vinyl record player being used and the song choices stem from the 50s-60s which fits well with the personality of Hutch Mansell and is a refreshing touch from the overused 80s soundtracks that is typically used in films nowadays. The overall score however does not venture out to become something new and unique as it comes across as a generic score used throughout many action films before it.
With well balanced humor and snappy action set pieces, Nobody doesn’t quite achieve the heights of its big brother John Wick, it does however establish a future franchise of action films with plenty of unanswered questions that can be left to explore in future installments.