March 26, 2021
by Carla Hay
Directed by Ilya Naishuller
Some language in Russian with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the action film “Nobody” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some black people, Latinos and Asians) representing the middle-class, working-class and criminal underground.
Culture Clash: A seemingly mild-mannered husband and father becomes an angry, gun-toting vigilante who has Russian mobsters out to get him.
Culture Audience: “Nobody” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching movies filled with over-the-top fight scenes and deliberately satirical comedy.
In a world filed with action films that take themselves too seriously, the cartoonishly violent “Nobody” wants to be like a court jester, by poking fun at the movie’s characters and the action genre overall. It’s a film that takes pleasure in having audiences witness an “everyday,” seemingly “normal” person transform into an ass-kicking heroic type who protects the vulnerable and the downtrodden. It’s definitely not a superhero movie, but it’s more like a vigilante dark comedy with messages about the dangers of underestimating people who look harmless.
“Nobody” might get some comparisons to the 2014 action film “John Wick” because it starts off with a home invasion that triggers the story’s protagonist on a path of violent revenge. There’s a cute pet in the story (a puppy in “John Wick” and a kitten in “Nobody”), and both movies have David Leitch as a producer. “Nobody” writer Kolstad is a writer for the “John Wick” movies. But that’s where the similarities end.
“Nobody” and “John Wick” have styles and characters that are very different from each other. And cute pets aren’t killed in “Nobody.” John Wick (played by Keanu Reeves) is a mysterious loner without a family, while “Nobody” protagonist Hutch Mansell (played by Bob Odenkirk) is a husband and father. “John Wick” movies have a more sinister tone than “Nobody,” and the John Wick character has a more typical image of someone who’s ready for physical combat.
Directed by Ilya Naishuller and written by Derek Kolstad, “Nobody” actually taps into a similar mentality that Michael Douglas’ protagonist character had in the 1993 crime thriller “Falling Down.” Just like in “Falling Down,” the premise of “Nobody” is about an apparently law-abiding citizen whose pent-up anger at being underappreciated and ignored eventually explodes into a violent rampage against people he thinks are being bullies. “Nobody” takes a much more comedic route than “Falling Down,” but both films are commentaries on how seemingly respectable American men can be pushed over the edge and use self-defense or vigilantism as justification for their violence.
“Nobody” opens with a scene of Hutch sitting at a table in an interrogation room. Seated across from him are two unnamed law enforcement detectives (played by Kristen Harris and Erik Athavale). Hutch is bloodied, bruised and shows signs of other physical injuries. He’s smoking a cigarette, and he brings out a kitten out from underneath his jacket.
The female detective looks at Hutch and asks him suspiciously, “Who the fuck are you?” And then the screen cuts to the title of the movie “Nobody.” How did Hutch end up in this interrogation room? The rest of the film is a flashback showing what happened.
It all started when Hutch and his family became victims of a home invasion robbery, late one night. The robbers are husband and wife Luis Martin (played by Edsson Morales) and Lupita Martin (played by Humberly González), who wear masks and have guns while committing the crime. It’s never revealed why they targeted the Mansell household, but Hutch is the first to notice the burglars in the house, which is an unnamed U.S. city. (“Nobody” was actually filmed in the Canadian city of Winnipeg.)
Hutch lives in the home with his wife Rebecca, nicknamed Becca (played by Connie Nielsen), who’s a successful real-estate agent; their son Blake (played by Gage Munroe), who’s about 13 or 14 years old; and their daughter Abby (played by Paisley Cadorath), who’s about 7 or 8 years old. Blake also hears the intruders, but he lets his father go out in the living room to investigate. Hutch brings a golf club with him for protection.
Sure enough, Hutch is confronted by the robbers. Lupita sees some cash and loose change in a bowl in the living room and scolds Hutch for not having more cash in the house. Hutch replies, “I use a debit card.” She then demands that Hutch give her the watch that he’s wearing.
Just as she’s about to take Hutch’s wedding ring, Blake leaps from upstairs and tackles Luis. Blake and Luis get into a fight, while Hutch is about to hit Luis with the golf club. But Lupita aims the gun toward Blake, and Hutch tells Blake to back off of the robbers. Just then, Becca sees the commotion from the top of the stairs and tells the robbers to take anything they want.
But the robbers have had enough of this bungled home invasion and they run away. They’ve stolen about $20 in cash and Abby’s kitty-cat bracelet that were in the bowl in the living room. And they’ve also stolen the family’s sense of trust and safety in their own home.
When the police arrive to investigate, the cop asking the questions expresses surprised disappointment that Hutch didn’t do enough to stop the robbers. Blake shows some resentment toward Hutch because Blake feels that he and Hutch would’ve won in the fight against the criminals. And the end result is that Hutch is made to feel like he was a wimp who made the wrong decisions during the home invasion.
During the attack, Hutch noticed some big clues that might be helpful to the investigation. The female robber had a distinctive tattoo of a bird on her wrist. And her gun was an old Smith & Wesson .38 special. And when the shock of the home invasion wears off, Hutch remembers that this robber’s gun was actually empty. And knowing this makes Hutch feel even more like he wasn’t man enough to protect his family.
The next day, a neighbor named Jim (played by Paul Essiembre), who lives next door to the Mansells, tells Hutch: “I heard you had some excitement last night. Man, I wish they [the robbers] could’ve picked my place. I could’ve used the exercise.”
Jim then shows off the 1972 Dodge Challenger that he inherited from his dead father. The car is in tip-top shape. And it’s at this point in the movie that you know that this car is going to be in a chase scene.
The early parts of “Nobody” have a series repetitive montages to show that Hutch’s monotonous “daily grind” life has made him bored and unhappy. He works as an accountant at a dull office job at Williams Manufacturing Ltd., which is owned by his father-in-law Eddie Williams (played by Michael Ironside), who is preparing to retire sometime in the near future. Hutch has offered to buy the business, but Eddie has said no because he tells Hutch that Hutch’s monetary offer isn’t good enough.
Instead, Eddie said he’ll probably pass on the business to Eddie’s son Charlie (Billy MacLellan), a boorish lunkhead who taunts Eddie about the home invasion by pointing a gun to Eddie’s head when they’re at work together. Charlie then gives the gun to Hutch and tells him in a condescending voice, “Keep my sister safe, bro.” Hutch reluctantly takes the gun.
When Hutch exercises outside, he can see his wife Becca’s enlarged image in her real-estate ad at a nearby bus stop. Because of this ad, she literally overshadows him while Hutch works out. And it’s not said out loud in the movie, but it’s implied that Becca makes more money than Hutch does. It’s shown later in the movie that Hutch and Becca’s marriage has lost its passion and romance.
And when Blake says he has to do a school report on a military veteran, he asks Hutch if he could interview him for the assignment. Hutch replies that he was an auditor in the military, so he was “kind of a nobody. That makes for a pretty dry story.” Becca suggest that Blake interview her brother Charlie instead, since Charlie was “a real soldier.”
As soon as Becca says that she apologizes to Hutch, who looks like he’s used to these backhanded insults. Hutch then suggests that Blake interview Hutch’s father, “who saw some real [combat] action.” Hutch’s father David (played by Christopher Lloyd) is currently living in a nursing home.
With Hutch feeling powerless and emasculated in his own home, the only person he can turn to for advice is someone named Harry (played by RZA), who is in hiding for reasons that are explained later in the movie. It’s also revealed later why Harry and Hutch know each other. Until Harry appears in person (it’s not spoiler information, since it’s in the movie’s trailer), Harry is just a voice that Hutch communicates with over a stereo radio.
Harry can sense that this home invasion has triggered something dangerous in Hutch. Harry advises Hutch: “I know what you’re thinking about. Don’t do nothing stupid. You hear me?”
But it’s too late. Through a series of events, Hutch finds out the identities of the two home invasion robbers. It sets off several violent encounters, as Hutch goes into full vigilante mode. One such incident is when he’s on a city bus and notices that five young thugs have surrounded a teenage girl, with the intent to harass her.
They are the only passengers on the bus. Hutch calmly makes the driver stay outside the bus, and then he completely goes off the thugs in one of the movie’s most memorable scenes. It’s the type of fight scene that’s completely unrealistic, but it’s entertaining for people who like watching outlandish stunts.
Throughout the movie, Hutch experiences the type of injuries that would land people in a hospital emergency room, but he’s able to walk away with just some grimaces and some heavy limping. Because this movie is intended to be a dark comedy, these far-fetched fight scenes are very slapstick. However, viewers need to have a high tolerance for bloody violence to enjoy this movie.
One of the thugs who gets badly injured by Hutch during the bus battle is named Teddy Kuznetsovj (played by Aleksandr Pal), whose injuries include brain damage and possible permanent paralysis. Teddy just happens to be the younger brother of a demented Russian mobster named Yulian Kuznetsov (played by Alexey Serebryakov), so you know what that means. Yulian finds out that Hutch s responsible for Teddy’s near-fatal injuries and vows to get revenge.
Yulian provides security for a Russian organization called Obshak, which houses a fortune worth millions. So there’s big money at stake in this crime saga. Yulian’s has several goons helping him track down Hutch. Among these accomplices is Yulian’s half-Russian, half-Ethiopian right-hand man Pavel (played by Araya Mengesha), whom Yulian viciously defends when some racist gangsters try to degrade Pavel for not being white.
As an example of some of the goofy quirks in this movie, Yulian likes getting on stage and performing to corny dance-pop music. There’s a scene of Yulian at his favorite nightclub Malina, which is the type of gaudy and tacky nightspot where you might see wannabe Eurovision Song Contest performers. Yulian leaps on stage with one of the singers and starts dancing as if he’s the star of the show.
Another sight gag in the film is during a big shootout at Williams Manufacturing Ltd., Hutch is near a wall sign that that reads, “This department has worked 204 days without lost time accident. The best previous record was 91 days. Do your part.” The number 204 is on a part of the sign that is erasable. In the middle of the melee, Hutch takes his elbow and erases the number 204, to indicate that the office isn’t a safe space anymore.
Even with these touches of comedy, the main attraction for “Nobody” remains the action. Fortunately, the movie doesn’t let up on its adrenaline pace. And the filmmakers understand that the spectacle of Hutch being a one-man combat machine isn’t enough, so there are more people who eventually join Hutch in his fight against Yulian and his thugs. The choreography and stunts in the fight scenes are much better than the movie’s visual effects. (For example, there’s a scene with a massive fire where the flames look very fake.)
Odenkirk carries the movie with an entertaining flair as Hutch, who never really loses his humanity underneath all of his rage. If viewers are wondering how Hutch is able to have such masterful fighting skills, it’s explained in the movie. The explanation isn’t surprising in the least, since there were many clues that Hutch isn’t as “average” as he first appears to be. The ending of “Nobody” is a clear indication that the filmmakers want this movie’s story to continue. And based on all the crowd-pleasing aspects of this movie, there’s a high likelihood that “Nobody” won’t be the last time that viewers will see Hutch Mansell.
Universal Pictures released “Nobody” in U.S. cinemas on March 26, 2021. The movie’s VOD release date is April 16, 2021.