The film Nobody adds to the long list of action films with angry men. Since Taken (2008), played by a male named Liam Neeson, became a surprise hit, many film studios have tried to make their version of Taken. Some were successful, some failed. One of the most successful is John Wick (2014) which has grown into a large franchise. So, Nobody is trying to become a John Wick-class franchise.
Directed by Ilya Naishuller (Harcore Henry) with a script from Derek Kolstad, who is the author of the John Wick trilogy, Nobody’s story is told from the perspective of a man named Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirik). Mansell is said to have experienced a mid-life crisis, trapped in the monotonous routine of life. Every day he worked just waking up, exercising, having breakfast, going to the office, going home, sleeping, and so on. As with the title track Nine Inch Nails, “every day is exactly the same” for Mansell.
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The monotony of life is exacerbated by the hostile atmosphere of the house. Mansell’s wife, Becca (Connie Nielsen), has rarely had any contact with him. Mansell’s son, Blake (Gage Munroe), considers his father to be fathers who are limp and do not deserve to be role models. The only family members who understand Mansell’s plight are his daughter, father, and brother.
The situation reaches a climax when a pair of thieves rob Mansell’s house. Blake is disappointed that Mansell did not stop the two thieves, even relented. Annoyed of being treated poorly, Mansell began to trace the whereabouts of the two thieves.
Mansell’s search resulted in numerous fights and revelations. Mansell turns out to be not the bad guys, but a former “auditor” (read: assassin) for the CIA and his search leads him to the most dangerous Russian gangster. What happened next was action by action, like John Wick.
Mansell rolls up all the gangsters who try to finish him mercilessly. No matter how many troops were sent to kill him, Mansell always had a way to defeat them. Everything is shown in a brutal, visceral manner, which is able to make the audience sit on the edge of the chair so tense.
On the premise, Nobody doesn’t present anything really new. All the action film tropes of the angry men are in it. Family bullied? Check. Former hit man or agent? Check. Dealing with gangsters? Check. Revenge with simple motivation without a single one being able to stop it? Check, check, and check. However, it’s hard to deny that Nobody is a film that feels funnier and in some ways more mature than John Wick.
One of the advantages is in the character development of Mansell. His character is much more interesting than John Wick. While John Wick is just a man who has retired from his brutal life, Mansell is a man who is trapped in a monotonous life and a mid-life crisis.
Mansell knew it would be easy for him to get out of that life, but he was afraid it might get out of hand later. According to Mansell, once he felt the pleasure of hitting someone until the blood spurted out and the bones made a “crack!” Sound, there would be no stopping for him. The problem is that it can put his family in danger, fear, and at worst leave him.
These fears made Mansell desperately “lock up” himself in a “mediocre” persona and life. The result is as described above, a monotonous routine and lack of respect from the people around him. Mansell is considered boring and poor.
It made his character feel shocking as his fiercest side gradually came out without a single one being able to stop him. Compare with John Wick, who from the beginning we already know he’s the masters. John Wick’s character didn’t offer a surprise while Mansell did
On the other hand, Nobody captures the monotonous side of Mansell’s life nicely. In a short tempo, Nobody can show how terrible it is when someone gets stuck in a loop without the slightest variation. It felt like a hamster running on its spinning wheel. He keeps running and running with the only difference that can happen is between stopping due to exhaustion or from falling. Mansell stopped from the wheel because he was tired and he didn’t want to feel it anymore.
People like Mansell do little in reality. Many jobs have these pitfalls that can suck a person’s passions dry, turning them from being fun to being boring. Those who are initially accustomed to living with the adventure and adrenaline rush of Mansell are the ones most likely to get caught up in these tricky situations.
The development of Mansell’s character was helped by the image of everyman owned by actor Bob Odenkirk. Growing up through the series Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, Bob Odenkirk showed that behind the image of his father, he could become an action actor in the same class as Keanu Reeves. Anyone who has seen Odenkirk’s acting, which is mostly in comedy dramas, would never have expected that he could act in action without losing his sense of humor.
Speaking of action, director Ilya Naishuller, famous for his Hardcore Henry film which is completely shot from a first-person perspective, manages to deliver action that is not only shocking, but also imaginative. Mansell is shown to have many ways to finish off his enemies.
Mansell’s ways of rolling up his enemies range from conventional methods such as fighting with his bare hands to making use of the objects around him. It’s no exaggeration to say Mansell is John Wick with the extra skill set Macgyver and Jackie Chan. The result is a fight that feels more fun, fresher, and can be very comical at times.
Despite its big theme about the traps of routine and midlife crises, Nobody is not an action film that tries to take it seriously. There is a balance between the elements of drama and action it has with the addition of satirical comedy. Nobody can make the audience interested with the issues he brings, but he doesn’t forget to invite them to have fun by showing how Mansell releases the tired monotonous routine by messing around with Russian gangsters.