dir: Ilya Naishuller
Who doesn’t feel like a nobody? Drowning in quiet desperation in the suburbs, repeating the same movements, actions and gestures every day, so deep in the ruts that constitute a life that even the people around you who you endure all this for barely seem to be able to see you anymore. And if they do, it’s with contempt, with a bit of loathing.
What to do, what to do…
Well, the average American has the options of : doing the hard work to develop one’s inner qualities, to expand one’s notion of the self and its place in the universe; devoting one’s life to helping others, or fighting for causes bigger than oneself.
Or, they could just get a gun and shoot people maybe?
The premise of this flick is the premise of a lot of flicks, it’s just that it doesn’t usually result in someone killing thousands of people. Killing people in order to feel alive again used to be frowned upon. Now it just seems like another path to self-fulfillment.
This is not a revenge thriller, nor is it Death Wish, where a wronged architect starts walking around New York killing ethnically diverse minorities for revenge and shits and giggles (three for the price of one). The John Wick comparison isn’t valid either. Wick was a retired assassin. Some jerk kills his dog and steals his car, so he gets to work. He kinda wants his car back and revenge for killing the dog, but mostly they just won’t leave the guy alone. He didn’t ask for this shit, but he will finish it over the course of 3 movies and a 4th installment for some insane reason.
The Nobody at the core of this flick did ask for this shit. A break-in at his home, where he lives with his wife who does not like him, if she ever did, and his kids, is the start of something big. As home invasions go, this one isn’t too horrific, especially since no-one dies, thankfully. But what it unearths is the seething contempt of his family against him, and his neighbours. Even the cops are like “why didn’t you even take a swing, bro?”
Everyone’s against him. But he’ll show them, won’t he? He’ll show them all that he’s a man to be feared.
Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn’t, but for many of us the lead here Bob Odenkirk is best known for his character of Jimmy McGill / Saul Goodman from Better Call Saul, but even more so for Breaking Bad. Breaking Bad is a testament, an absolute bedrock example of a show created with the premise of a middle-aged middle-class white guy feeling like life has passed him by, wishing he could do something extraordinary in order to feel alive again. It helps, for shows like that, that they cater mostly to whole multitudes of white, middle-aged, middle-class white guys who feel like life has passed them by and like if they did something violent and criminal, they’d be really good at it, not like those other lowlives…
Breaking Bad Saul is amoral, not particularly vicious, but without any moral compunctions about doing or saying anything no matter how awful. Better Call Saul Saul / Jimmy is desperate, hopeful, sweating, clinging to some vestige of credibility, fated to be morally destroyed.
He brings those same energies here, but the character is a bit hard to wrap one’s head around. I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler, because otherwise it doesn’t make a lot of sense why any of this would be happening: this guy here called Hutch, used to be a hardcore assassin for the agencies known by their three-letter acronyms. He would kill the kinds of people too hard to kill legally, or too hard for the local police to pull over and shoot for no reason other than the car freshener hanging from the rear view mirror or something equally implausible. He chose to try the happy, sedate life of a suburban shmoe, but it does not sit well with his ego.
After the violation of the sanctum of his home, he decides “fuck it, I want to kill people again”. He tracks down the amateurs who tried to rob him, but doesn’t murderise them, because they are a married couple, and, get this, they have a baby.
Frustrated, he gets on a bus, and when some drunk Russians get on board, he decides this is his time to shine, so he tries to beat all of them up.
What I love about all of this (I don’t love it) is how fucking contrived it all is. Why is he on a bus? Well, he caught a bus when he went to confront the home invaders. Why did he catch the bus to the home invaders? He has a car, they have multiple cars. Well, because he’s a big believer in mass transit / public transport as a way of dealing with carbon emissions and climate change etc?
When he decides to throw down with the Russians, he’s carrying a gun. He makes a point of emptying the chambers of the revolver, and dropping the gun on the floor of the bus. Why does he do this? Is it to show how he doesn’t give a fuck, and really wants to physically tussle, rather than just shoot people?
Nah, it’s so that a few minutes later, after he’s been smacking these jerks around, one of the jerks thinks “Why don’t I pick up the gun, put bullets in it, then shoot the jerk who has been beating us up?”
Truly, it makes the character seem really dumb, and I don’t like my Bob Odenkirk characters being profound dumbasses. I like them being smarter and more desperate than everyone else.
In taking on the bus O’Russians, of course it leads to more Russians wanting to kill him and his family presumably. One of the Russians he brutalised, and then did a battlefield tracheotomy on in order to save his life, is the younger brother of a Russian gangster (of course), so now Hutch has the excuse he needed to kill a whole bunch of people. Plus, he kids to look like a big man to the wife and kids, and then he even drags in his dad (Christopher Lloyd, you know, Doc from Back to the Future), who’s in an old folk’s home, whiling away his days watching his stories on the telly.
And then The RZA is in it, for some reason. The RZA (remember, The Wu Tang Clan STILL ain’t nothing to fuck with) is some connection to his old agency, that will fly in as a deus ex machina to help Hutch when things look bleak.
They never really ever look that bleak. Hutch, who, let’s remind ourselves, isn’t getting revenge for anything, and started all this off by randomly getting violent again when he didn’t need to, is having the time of his life. The stuff with the Russians, it’s okay, but really, Russian mafia or Bratva are such a fucking cliché by now. All of them die, some have more poignant deaths than others, but really, they are but stepping stones along the way to Hutch feeling good about himself again.
I’m all for people feeling good about themselves, as long as it’s not at the expense of others. I think there’s slack I cut this flick that I wouldn’t had Bob Odenkirk not been playing the lead role. The idea of having a guy as the action lead of something that doesn’t look like he should be the action lead of something isn’t as much of a radical idea, and hasn’t been for a while. Sure, a Hemsworth or a Rock or a Statham playing a down on his luck jerk disrespected by his family who surprises a bunch of crims by having super killing skills, who his family then like again, is just as much wish fulfillment (for the audience) as when an Odenkirk or a Neeson or a Bronson does it.
Nobody is not a particularly innovative entry into the genre, but it will do. I hope there aren’t any sequels to it. Nothing would be duller than contriving additional reasons for him to go on kill crazy rampages. He’s not a good guy righting wrongs, he’s just a bored accountant wanting to seem bigger in the eyes of the world, and generally you don’t get that from killing people.
Usually that just turns you into Bruce Willis, and nobody wants that.
6 times Nobody thinks he’s a big deal down at the cracker factory out of 10
“Give me the goddamn kitty cat bracelet, motherfucker!” – it’s under the couch, you dolt - Nobody