Nobody (2021)

From left RZA, Bob Odenkirk, and Christopher Lloyd star in “Nobody,” directed by Ilya Naishuller.

He’s older than Keanu Reeves yet younger than Liam Neeson — meet cinema’s newest middle-aged action star Emmy-winner Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”) who takes the everyman hero to the next level courtesy of “Hardcore Henry” director Ilya Naishuller and writer Derek Kolstad, the architect behind the John Wick trilogy. Yes, there are plenty of shootouts, car chases, and well-choreographed fight scenes but also a generous dose of comedy making “Nobody” the first feel-good thrill ride of the summer.

The release of “Jaws” in 1975 set the bar for the summer action film or blockbuster. Typically, the first weekend of May signified the rollout of the major studios’ testosterone-filled fare, which continued through the end of August. Eventually, the summer movie season moved up into spring as studios began jumping the gun. Both “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame” were released in April, while “Captain Marvel” and “The Matrix” were both released in March.

“Nobody” may not be on the blockbuster level of the aforementioned films, but it brought in $2.6 million overseas last weekend in four markets including Russia where the box office haul was $1.2 milion. To put that in perspective, in 2014 “John Wick” opened in pre-COVID Russia with a $759,331 take, so all indicators point to a promising U.S. opening this Friday.

Odenkirk plays Hutch Mansell, a family man with beautiful wife Becca (Connie Nielsen), teenage son Blake (Gage Munroe), and young daughter Abby (Paisley Cadorath). He works the 9-to-5 grind at a manufacturing plant owned by his father-in-law Eddie (Michael Ironside) where he’s subjected to obnoxious brother-in-law Charlie (Billy MacLellan) who one day hopes to take over the business. Hutch, however, has other plans. He’s put in a bid to buy the business and while it’s a fair offer, Eddie wants a great offer (so much for family).

Naishuller does an exceptional job of characterizing Hutch’s humdrum life with a montage reminiscent of “Groundhog Day” where he takes the trash out, misses the garbage truck, rides the bus to work, sits at a desk crunching numbers (he works as an accountant at the factory), returns home, eats dinner and goes to bed — a line of pillows creates a barrier between Hutch and his wife — it’s been years since they’ve been romantic.

One night, burglars break into the Mansell home armed with a gun. Blake manages to tackle one of them while Hutch, armed with a baseball bat, sneaks up behind the other one. But instead of taking a swing, he tells his son to let the burglar go, which results in Blake getting a nice shiner while the thieves get away. Blake, angry and upset, can’t believe his dad did nothing to stop the thieves. The home invasion scene is based on a personal experience after Odenkirk’s home was broken into while his family was home. Like his character Hutch, the actor felt, as a dad, the right thing to do was nothing to make it through with minimum damage. However, he couldn’t help but wonder if he should have done more. In “Nobody,” the scene plays out with the cops arriving with one officer commenting, “You did the right thing, Mr. Mansell,” while the other cop questions, “Did you even take a swing?”

Hutch hits the breaking point days later when he realizes the thieves made off with his daughter’s kitty cat bracelet and so he sets out in the night in search of the intruders with a tattoo as the only clue into the pair’s identity. This leads to a confrontation on a bus as Hutch takes out his frustration on a group of Russian gangsters in a brutal, bloody and well-choreographed fight scene — a mashup between “John Wick” and “Jackie Chan” that puts the baddies in the hospital. Yes, Hutch has a secret identity and a violent past that’s explained over the course of the film.

You can guess where it goes from here. The Russian mobsters led by flamboyant Yulian (Aleksey Serebryakov), a bad karaoke singer and flashy dresser who resembles Hugh Hefner, go after Hutch to settle the score, especially since one of the critically-injured mobsters is Yulian’s younger brother. Serebryakov, a Russian actor unknown to most U.S. audiences (he was terrific in the 2014 Oscar-nominated international film “Leviathan”), oozes with charisma, stealing each scene he’s in.

The supporting cast features musician-actor RZA as Harry, a mysterious figure from Hutch’s secretive past — the two are close like brothers — and Christopher Lloyd as Hutch’s father David who lives in a nursing home where he watches old Westerns all day long. A cigar box with a gun, an FBI badge and a wad of cash give us a clue of the elder Mansell’s former life. Lloyd injects humor into the story, and a few stand-up-and-cheer moments after he also proves to be an underestimated everyman, who like his son, is forced out of retirement.

Thanks to director Naishuller and writer Kolstad, a new John Wick is born in the form of mild-mannered Bob Odenkirk who credibly pulls it off while injecting humor along the way. From a thrilling car chase set to Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker,” to spectacular action sequences amped up to 11, “Nobody” gives you the most bang for your buck by adding a side of comedy and believe it or not, a healthy portion of compassion.

(4 stars)

Opens Thursday, March 25 in theaters including Cinemark 12 Victoria

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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