The career arc for Bob Odenkirk is among the most interesting in Hollywood history. For years, starting in the early 1990s, he made his living as a comedy writer and performer, earning steady work but never as the star except in the cult classic TV show, Mr. Show with Bob and David. That all changed when, at the age of 47, he was cast as Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad. Seen in a new dramatic light, he’s gone on to be bigger than ever, starring in the spinoff Better Call Saul and getting cast in high-profile movies like The Post and Little Women.
And now, against all odds at age 58, he’s becoming an action star as the lead in Nobody. Odenkirk plays Hutch Mansell, a man seemingly sleepwalking through life, working in a dead-end job and going home to an unexciting marriage with his wife, Becca (Connie Nielsen), and two kids. His lackluster reaction when two people break into their home awakens something inside him, something that’s been dormant for a long time.
Soon, not only is he confronting the robbers over the things they took, but he’s also confronting hooligans on a city bus, an encounter that runs him afoul of the city’s criminal underground. What the gang leaders don’t know, and are about to find out, is that Hutch is much more than a wimpy, depressed accountant.
Written by Derek Kolstad (John Wick series) and directed by Ilya Naishuller, the film is one of those movies you just have to go with, as it’s too ridiculous to be taken seriously. After the home invasion, the plot is set in motion by Hutch’s daughter saying her kitty bracelet was stolen. Hutch’s overreaction to something so minor being taken sets the tone for the rest of the film, which vacillates between scenes of ultraviolence and jokey storytelling.
The majority of the film has Hutch taking on wave after wave of bad guys, but Hutch is no superhero, as he takes lots of damage along the way. As with any film of this ilk, he has a very particular moral code, using his set of skills to take down those who cross him while never giving into the temptation of millions of dollars that is easily accessible by him.
To go along with the lighthearted yet brutal storytelling, Naishuller and his team insert a host of incongruent musical cues, setting scenes to classic upbeat songs to take the sting out of the violence happening on screen. It’s a technique that’s been used before but perhaps never so liberally, and it can come off poorly if the viewer not in the right frame of mind to accept the juxtaposition.
The reason for Odenkirk’s success in this role is because he’s so unsuspecting. He plays the schlub perfectly, and when the switch gets thrown, his transformation into a badass is thoroughly enjoyable. Also fun is casting Christopher Lloyd as his dad, who gets in on the action at one point to equal delight. Almost unrecognizable are Nielsen, who doesn’t get to do much, and Michael Ironside as Hutch’s father-in-law/boss.
Nobody is not going to win any Oscars, unless they add in a stunt category sometime in the next year, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. It’s an over-the-top film with characters that are so unbelievable that there’s almost no choice but to soak in every ludicrous second.
Nobody opens in theaters on March 26.