I’ve been watching a lot of crappy movies lately, especially with the snowy weather we had in South Carolina this weekend, but each one has been more forgettable than the last. Regular reader Ponty asked me to write a review of a really bad movie, but that requires a movie to be bad and memorable. Most of the dreck I’ve watched lately has been bad and boring. The vast majority of bad films—indeed, probably the vast majority of films, period—fall into this category.
My aunt, also a regular reader and subscriber has asked me to review 2021’s The Electrical Life of Louis Wain. I plan on doing that soon, but I have to track down the film first. It looks like it’s on Prime Video, so I’ll have to see if there are some credentials I can borrow to watch it (or I’ll just break down and get an Amazon Prime membership).
So I was in a bit of a bind going into Sunday, with no film rising to the level of reviewable (or, I should say, with the inability to remember any details of any films I’ve watched recently). Then my younger brother mentioned that he and his wife were going to watch Nobody (2021) Saturday after their kids went to bed, and I remembered that I’d purchased the DVD from RedBox months ago, and had been meaning to watch it ever since.
Nobody was a film I wanted to see in theaters. The premise—an everyday working stiff finally cracks and takes action against bad guys—is one I’ve always enjoyed in movies (probably as a form of wish-fulfillment), and Bob Odenkirk is a comedy legend. Comedy, action, the little guy throwing punches? That’s my kind of flick.
Nobody did not disappoint. The setup for the film depicts Hutch Mansell (now one of my favorite movie protagonist names) going about his mundane daily routine—having breakfast, pouring coffee, missing the garbage truck on Tuesdays, punching numbers into a spreadsheet, etc. While he has a wife and kids, his life is in a rut. He and his wife share the same bed, but they sleep with a wall of pillows between them. He takes the bus to work (while his neighbor drives a classic muscle car).
Then two amateur burglars break into Bob’s house in the middle of the night. Hutch’s son tackles the male burglar, but Hutch stops short of smacking the female accomplice upside the head, and tells his son to let go of the man, lest he be shot. The burglars get away with Bob’s watch and some loose bills—and little else.
It becomes clear that everyone around Hutch considers him a failure for letting the burglars go. The police officer reporting to the scene, for example, tells Hutch that he did the right thing, but quickly adds, “if it had been me…,” implying that he would have taken more decisive (and lethal) action.
Hutch is content to let things be, until his young daughter can’t find her kitty cat bracelet. The missing bracelet sends Hutch on a revenge mission to recover his daughter’s prized possession.
At this point, the viewer comes to understand that Bob is not the everyday schmuck we first met. It becomes clear that Hutch is more than just a “nobody,” and that his former time as an “auditor” in the armed forces is far more significant than the dry title suggests. It’s also revealed that Hutch knew the burglars were wielding unloaded firearms, and let them go because they were young, nervous, and misguided.
The couple, unfortunately do not have the kitty cat bracelet, and Hutch leaves them alone. On his way home, however, a rowdy group of Russian gangsters crash their SUV next to Hutch’s parked bus. They hop on the bus and begin harassing a young woman. Hutch quietly escorts the bus driver off the bus, closes the door, and proceeds to beat the crap out of the Russians.
What’s great about this action scene is that Hutch does not just effortlessly kick their *sses. He gets his *ss kicked, too—and is stabbed! It made the scene way more believable, even if it requires some suspension of disbelief that a middle-aged man in a polo shirt is secretly a former government killing machine.
I watched some of the “behind-the-scenes” material for this flick, and Bob Odenkirk started training in 2017 to learn to fight—and to take punches. The action scenes, while certainly fun and over-the-top, also seemed realistic. The good guys get punched, stabbed, kicked, even shot, and that all takes its toll on their bodies.
Well, it turns out that the Russian gangsters work for a sociopathic Russian crime lord, Yulian Kuznetsov, who also fancies himself a lounge singer and dancer. Yulian has been left in charge of the Obtshak, the communal fund passed around between crime lords in the Russian Mafia. Yulian is not happy about the responsibility, but is confident in his abilities to keep the money safe.
What he does not count on is Hutch. Yulian sends his men after Hutch in revenge, and after attacking Hutch’s house, he strikes back hard against Yulian.
I won’t reveal too much more, but the two escalate violence against one another until it all culminates in a massive final showdown at the tool and die factory where Hutch works (and which he purchases with gold bars from his father-in-law). Hutch’s motivation is to protect his family against future attacks; Yulian wants to end Hutch for good.
Only one can get his way, especially after Yulian rejects Hutch’s offer to take his money and setup a tiki bar in the Caribbean (not a bad retirement for a Russian gangster!). It all comes down to an epic showdown.
This movie felt a lot like the John Wick films to me, not so much stylistically, but in terms of plot. In the John Wick trilogy, the retired title character leaves behind a quiet life of domesticity after the screw-up younger brother (or maybe son? I can’t remember exactly) of an invincible Russian mob boss kills John Wick’s dog, the last reminder of his late wife. Wick then proceeds to destroy the entire Russian crime syndicate and most of the criminal underworld in his quest for revenge.
The parallels are hard to miss: retired killing machine loses a seemingly trifling thing (a dog, a kitty cat bracelet) and goes on a rampage of revenge.
What was different in Nobody is that Hutch truly comes alive again while kicking butt. His stagnant marriage is revitalized; he earns the respect of his father-in-law; even his own dad (played wonderfully here by Christopher Lloyd) comes out of literal retirement—a retirement home!—to kill Russians. John Wick just wanted to have his dog and be left alone, but the criminal underworld just couldn’t leave him be. Hutch went looking for trouble (after discovering the Hispanic couple that robbed him were just panicked amateurs with a baby at home).
I mentioned the comedy of this film. It is very understated, and flows from the action itself. It’s not even as overt as a Die Hard movie. It’s also not a black comedy, like Falling Down (1993), which I thought was going to be the closer equivalent for the movie (everyday guy who plays by the rules is repeatedly beaten down and finally snaps). But there are moments that are laugh-out-loud hilarious.
I would highly recommend this flick. If you like action and rooting for the (seeming) underdog, it’s great fun. Odenkirk’s turn as Hutch (who I kept calling “Bob” in the first draft of the review—d’oh!) is memorable, and a real testament to the comedic actor’s range. He makes a very convincing normal-guy-turned-action-hero.
Put another way: if the line “Give me the g*dd*mn kitty cat bracelet, m*therf***er does” doesn’t make you fall out of your chair, it’s probably not the film for you.