Right off the bat, I should probably say that this type of movie isn’t always for me. I can enjoy a straight action movie when it’s done well, but it either has to be done really well or there has to be something incredibly memorable about it for me to love it. John Wick and Taken are great examples. John Wick has amazing action, minimal character motivation, and a character that only Keanu Reeves could ever play, while Taken launched the entire Liam Neeson Cinematic Universe in which he plays a retired CIA/FBI/law enforcement agent who has to go on a one-man army rampage to save his daughter. And he’s the only one who could play the role.
But even though the new action flick, Nobody, brings in John Wick writer Derek Kolstad and producer David Leitch, it isn’t quite able to reach the same heights as the franchise with the highly-skilled, long-haired, bearded, dog lover.
Part of what makes John Wick or Taken so good is that they’re doing something new. Obviously, the premise of Taken wasn’t entirely new at the time it was released, but it still felt fresh. And now, 13 years later, it’s launched a whole new chapter in Liam Neeson’s career. John Wick has inventive action where the actors are doing their own stunts, which immerses the viewer even further into the experience.
Nobody, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have that unique quality. The film follows Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk), a white collar worker at a metal fabrication company, who is stuck in a repetitive, unfulfilling life. As the title suggests, he’s a nobody. One evening, two people break into Hutch’s family home and when he has the chance to attack one of the intruders with a golf club, he lets the opportunity pass and the intruders run off, leaving his teenage son disappointed with him.
When Hutch’s daughter says she can’t find her bracelet, Hutch decides he needs to go track down the intruders using his elderly father’s (Christopher Lloyd) old FBI badge. Of course, this leads to the plot of the film really taking off. On the bus on his way home, Butch stops a group of thugs from attacking a young woman in an action scene that’s reminiscent of the Bourne or Wick films. He uses whatever is at his disposal as a weapon and the film cements its action style for the rest of the movie.
This is also probably where the rest of the film-going community fell in love while I just got bored. For the remainder of the film, there are original fight sequences where Odenkirk performs his own stunts. They look great, are easy to follow, and are honestly a whole lot of fun. But for some reason, they just lost me. I don’t know what it was — maybe they weren’t unique enough, I just didn’t buy into the story the way I was supposed to, or they were too repetitive (there were what felt like six or seven different scenes of brutal action with Louis Armstrong or Andy Williams types playing over them because dissonance is fun!). No matter the case, it just wasn’t for me.
And I know it’s ironic. The point of the character of Butch is that he doesn’t look like an action star. Odenkirk looks like a middle-aged dad who just happens to be an action star type. It’s unique and original like I described at the top. But something about it simply rang hollow. Odenkirk is great in the role, yet he still felt replaceable. He didn’t make it his like so many others in this type of action flick.
If you’re a fan of the one-man army type of movie, this one will definitely be for you. There are enough punches, kicks, weapons, contraptions, and faceless Russian mobsters to scratch that itch. The climactic action sequence is particularly special and fun to watch and encapsulates the movie’s mix of gritty visuals with an almost slapstick tone. But if you’re like me and these action films are all starting to blend together for you, it’s probably best to sit this one out.