Nobody

Nobody is a punch to the gut, an elbow to the face, and a bullet to the head, each delivered with relish as well as a knowing wink to the audience.  It’s a welcome shotgun blast to our weary pandemic-infused stupor.  It’s bloody, vicious, hilarious and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  Highly recommended!

Give me the god-dam kitty-cat bracelet!!!!

Hutch Mansell

Nobody begins at the end, with a flash-forward.  We find Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) handcuffed in an interview room facing two detectives.  One look at his battered appearance and it’s clear that he’s been in some sort of fight or battle to the death.  He proceeds to extract a kitten from his coat, then a can of tuna and finally a can opener.  The detectives glare at Hutch incredulously and ask, “Who the f*** are you?”.  “Me? I’m nobody,” he replies.  At this point, I couldn’t help but wonder, what happened to him?  Why is he doing what he’s doing?  What’s up with the cat?  We are then taken back to several days prior, when Hutch’s life was still “normal”.

We see Hutch in a montage of scenes devoted to the rituals of suburban, middle-class life: morning coffee, taking out the trash (and missing the pickup), the morning run, the bus ride to work, clocking in, regular interactions with colleagues, going home, dinner, repeat.  The scenes get shorter and shorter, showing how time quickly slips by when your life is defined by routines.  

In spite of those routines, Hutch has a decent life.  He has a nice home, two good kids, a beautiful wife who’s picture smiles at him from a placard in the bus stop.  (She’s a real estate agent.)  Hutch’s family life is a solid, if uninteresting one.  The kids are getting older, and Hutch’s marriage to Becca (Connie Nielsen) has moved beyond the fiery passionate stage to more of a moderate friendliness.  Regardless, all seems well with the Mansell family, if a bit humdrum.

Until later one night, a pair of would-be thieves break into the Mansell home.  Hutch gives them what little cash there is, and his watch.  Hutch’s son Blake tackles one of the robbers, and Hutch grabs a golf club.  He can clearly take out the other robber, but puts his club down and tells his son to let the robber go.  The robbers leave, commenting that they went to the wrong house.  The police arrive and we learn that the robbers got in by preventing the garage door from closing with a discarded pizza box.  (A consequence of missing trash pickup, perhaps?)  One of the officers doesn’t understand why Hutch didn’t hit the robber when he had the chance.  “If it were my family,” is a remark Hutch hears from the officer and people in his circle.  Why didn’t Hutch do what everyone else says they would do if they were in his situation?

The next day, Hutch goes about his daily routine as before, but nothing feels the same.  Both Becca and his son look at him differently.  It’s as if Hutch was wearing a shirt with “Pussy” emblazoned on the front.  Hutch’s daughter Abby still adores him, though.  At work, Hutch deals with Becca’s brother, a macho type who gives Hutch a gun.  Hutch’s father-in-law Eddie (Michael Ironside) is somewhat understanding of Hutch’s response.  Hutch has put in a bid for Eddie’s company, and Eddie says that he wants a larger bid than Hutch’s.  At this point, everyone looks at Hutch as a pushover and a wimp.

Later that evening, Hutch is compelled by the simplest of things to seek revenge.  Abby says that she can’t find her kitty cat bracelet.  Hutch believes that the robbers took it, and leaves before having dinner to get it back.  He remembers that one of the robbers had a distinctive tattoo, and he tours the tattoo parlors in the city looking for information.  Hutch has his own tattoo, to which an old man thanks him for his service and scurries away.  Huh?

Hutch locates the robbers and gets his own watch back, but not his daughter’s bracelet.  A group of henchmen affiliated with the Russian mob wind up on the same bus as Hutch.  He knows that the young girl passenger is probably in danger from the thugs, but curiously is not concerned for his own safety.  What would seem like a bad turn of events is really a bizarre stroke of luck..  After feeling humiliated for the better part of a day, Hutch is just itching for a fight.

And fight he does.  Hutch manages to beat up the henchmen on the bus, taking a beating along the way.  The scene reminded me of the first season of Daredevil on Netflix, where whenever characters fight in close quarters, you feel every bone snap and crunch.  It’s a bravura action scene, only to be topped by the next one.  Unfortunately, one of the henchmen is the son of Yulian Kuznetsov, the owner of a bar and a bagman for the Russian mob.

The following morning, Hutch has a spring in his step and a smile on his face. Nothing like a bit of the old ultraviolence to wake a person up from their middle-class stupor, eh?  Hutch makes the family his lasagna recipe, which comes out perfect.  Just before they can eat it, Hutch notices several black vans approaching the house.  Kuznetsov sent a crew over to retrieve Hutch alive.  He tells them to get into the basement and not to call 911. Hutch proceeds to dispatch the home invaders using found objects (plate, tea kettle, in a way that reminded me of Jason Bourne.  Perhaps they were bunkmates at the same school that churns out lethal assassins.

Hutch manages to take down four of the kidnappers but is subdued.  He manages to escape from the trunk of their car in a way that is both ingenious and dangerous (if a bit incredulous).  It’s clear that Hutch is much, much more than he seems.  In what becomes a recurring bit, Hutch begins monologuing about who he was and what he did, only for the listener to die on him.  Nothing is more frustrating than having someone die on you when you’re baring your soul to them.

Hutch says that he was someone who was sent to clean up whatever the mess the three-letter agencies left behind.  He left that behind because he wanted to live a normal, peaceful life, free of killing and whatnot.  Now, thanks to a random break-in at his home, his former self has been awakened.  More than that, Hutch clearly missed his former life and enjoys being able to kill bad guys again.

Nobody has a similar setup to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, with notable exceptions.  Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were much too glamorous for us to believe that they are a normal suburban couple.  In Nobody, Hutch essentially is Mr. Smith, but with his accountant personality, slight build and middle-aged face, nobody (sorry) would ever think of him as a cleaner for the  government.  Odenkirk was pushing sixty when he made this movie, and it would be a reach to describe him as threatening in any way.

As someone who fits squarely in the white, male, middle-aged demographic, I could recognize some wish fulfillment for said demographic baked into the plot of Nobody.  There comes a point when a person (not necessarily me) would get tired of taking crap from people you know don’t respect you, whether that’s your neighbor, in-laws or the Russian mob.  And God help anyone who takes anything away from your children.  My proof of my interpretation is when Hutch decides to take the fight to the Russians.  He definitely can’t take the bus to his Tet-a-tet with Kuznetsov.  Instead, he steals his neighbor’s white Dodge Charger.  The soundtrack blares with Pat Benetar while he floors the engine and the tires squeal.  Hutch is back, baby!

Nobody is clearly targeted for an older audience that will appreciate its meta approach to action movies. People who’ve appreciated Odenkirk’s work in Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul and The Post will appreciate his turn here.  His dry delivery and nonplussed attitude are a perfect fit for Hutch.  Someone who maintains the company ledger day in and day out certainly would know how to plan for an armed assault by Kuznetsov and his henchmen.

The final confrontation is more of a typical action movie shoot-em-up, with good guys and bad guys blasting away at each other.  Hutch shows his MacGyver skills by setting various traps around his workplace.  Bad guys unfortunately never learn that when they go into a place they know nothing about, they’re at a distinct disadvantage.  Hutch, his father (Christopher Lloyd) and his brother (RZA) have fun shooting bad guys like they were playing a video game on boss mode.  Is it a bit unrealistic that only one of the three would end up getting shot once, while twenty or more bad guys go down?  Certainly.  But the movie has been aiming for entertainment over believability from the beginning, 

Seeing Christopher Lloyd again on the big screen was such a treat.  I haven’t seen much of him in recent years.  His combination of gleaming eyes, wild hair and raspy voice are so unique, and his presence in Nobody was a treat.  When Michael Ironside showed up early on for what turns out to be a glorified cameo, however, I was shocked.  He definitely has gone to pot.  You may not recognize him, as he looks to be about one-hundred pounds heavier from his glory days in the Eighties and Nineties (Scanners, Total Recall, Robocop).

Running at a lean ninety-two minutes, the movie has action to spare but keeps revelations to a minimum.  After Hutch’s second battle to the death, he mentions to his wife Becca “just like old times”.  I suspect she was involved with Hutch before he left his life as an auditor behind.  I also get the feeling that Hutch and his brother Harry (RZA) were adopted.  Maybe they were adopted and their father taught them the ropes.  I fully expect there to be a sequel that will explore the Mansell family dynamic a bit more.  In fact I demand a sequel.

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