“Nobody:” a gleefully gory time at the movies

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Photo courtesy of Universal Studios

As COVID-19 wanes and life returns to a more routined and normal pace, we can rediscover a sense of fun, joviality and gleeful gratification that has been so sorely absent. 

Think about it: how many times in the past would you and your loved ones go to the movies, grab some popcorn and a soda, and watch a silly action movie on a Saturday afternoon for the sake of simply having a day of much-needed frivolity together? 

Such afternoons have been gone for a year, but no longer. The beginning of the end of this dreadful pandemic is here, and only now are completely frivolous, silly, beautiful and wildly-entertaining popcorn flicks returning to their natural habitats: movie theaters.

“Nobody” is written by Derek Kolstad (the writer of the “John Wick” trilogy), directed by Ilya Naishuller, and stars, of all people, Bob Odenkirk (“Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul”) as Hutch Mansell, a former “fixer” for various government agencies. He got out of the business to have a wife, two kids, and a charming little house at the end of a cul-de-sac. 

Mansell now holds down a boring 9-to-5 job at a machine shop. He left an exciting, dangerous and incredibly masculine past to become a “nobody.” His marriage lost its spark years ago, and he no longer knows how to relate to his teenage son, though his young daughter still thinks the world of him. 

Mansell gets lost in the monotony of the blue-collar, family man life and begins to feel as if his former identity as the man who once single-handedly took down mob bosses and criminals no longer exists. 

This comes to a head after his house is robbed and he chooses not to fight the perpetrators. He is torn between his past life as a man who could take out such two-bit criminals without skipping a heartbeat and his current life as a husband and dad who should be putting his family’s needs above his own. 

His neighbors, family and son all think of him as a coward; he is barely able to control his desire for revenge and his desire to unleash the violent ability that only he knows that he has. 

Mansell seems to overcome these desires eventually. However, when he learns that the criminals stole his daughter’s “kitty-cat bracelet,” Mansell is sent on a path of vengeance, vigilante justice and unfortunate coincidences that lead him to  single-handedly face the Russian mob, just like the good old days. 

“Nobody,” is a gleefully gory popcorn action flick the likes of which we have not seen in theaters for far too long. Its premise is almost a carbon-copy of simple, yet superb, action movies like “John Wick,” and its main character echoes themes found in “The Incredibles.” 

In other words, nothing in “Nobody” is new at all. Its premise, its characters, its electric action sequences, its raw fight-scene choreography, its gorgeous and gory special effects, its stylized direction, its tight script and its elegantly-orchestrated wide-frame cinematography have all been featured in other (sometimes better) films before. 

Despite this lack of originality, “Nobody” is a fantastically fun time at the movies. This is a popcorn action flick, pure and simple. This film features a familiar premise and seeks to entertain, but not to impress, audiences. 

The single, distinguishing feature of “Nobody” that elevates it from being a “good” popcorn flick to being a “great” popcorn flick is Odenkirk’s stunning performance as the titular Odyssian “Nobody.” 

Odenkirk absolutely shines in this film. A slick, cheesy action film is the last place where one would expect such a capable dramatic actor as Odenkirk to be, yet he makes this film a must-see. If any other lesser actor filled the titular role in this film, “Nobody” might be a worthwhile diversion, but nothing more. 

His portrayal of a man of real ability whose masculinity is atrophying in a life of monotony, who must find a new way to synthesize his two warring identities on his rampage against the mob, is genuinely captivating. Odenkirk seems to channel “Mr. Incredible” as he battles not only the mob, but his earnest desire to violently exercise his strength and power against those who threaten his family.

Popcorn action flicks are back, and I can think of almost no better way to celebrate the beginning of the end of this pandemic than by taking a friend or loved one to the movies, spending way too much money on popcorn and candy, and enjoying a beautiful, silly movie like “Nobody” together, simply for the sake of enjoying a beautiful, silly movie together.

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