They messed with the wrong guy.
That’s an endlessly satisfying movie premise, and it’s at the foundation of “Nobody,” a dark action comedy about a fellow that everybody thinks is a nobody. He’s practically invisible, until it’s time for him to demonstrate the damage he can do.
It’s written by Derek Kolstad, the co-creator and screenwriter for the “John Wick” films, but while it has some action sequences that might recall that Keanu Reeves action flick, the whole atmosphere of “Nobody” is different. Like “The Foreigner” with Jackie Chan and Liam Neeson’s “Taken” movies, “Nobody” belongs to relatively a new screen genre, in which it becomes very, very dangerous to make Dad angry.
“Nobody” features Bob Odenkirk (“Breaking Bad” and the spin-off “Better Call Saul”) as an ostensibly boring suburban husband and father, who turns out to have moves that no one dreams possible. This is the new spin on action that has happened just over the last dozen or so years. Action movies used to, at least, pretend to be about people trying to accomplish something important. Now they’re about boring Dads regaining their stature and self-respect by going on a killing spree.
That kind of idea is, at bottom, funny. In the “Taken” movies, the hilarity of mild-mannered Neeson going on a family vacation with hand grenades in his suitcase was never acknowledged, but it was there and part of the fun. Here, the comedy is closer to the surface, thanks to the wit of Kolstad’s screenplay and of Ilya Naishuller’s direction.
The movie’s sardonic personality is evident from the beginning, when we see, via brief snippets, the central character’s same-day-everyday existence. Hutch (Odenkirk) goes to work at his father-in-law’s factory. He drinks coffee at the same time. The one clue that maybe, just maybe, this guy might have something else going on is that, once a day, while waiting for the bus, he uses the bus shelter to do a set of pull-ups.
Then the unexpected happens. His house is burglarized and he takes pity on the masked robbers — he chooses not to bash in the head of one of them with a putting iron. This moment of compassion is his low point. His son is angry at him. His wife () looks at him with disappointment. His brother-in-law makes fun of him. Everybody thinks that he’s a boring guy, including anyone in the audience that didn’t see the film’s trailer.
The fact that Odenkirk is not an especially big fellow makes Hutch’s subsequent rampages all the more entertaining. There’s a scene on a bus where he prefaces a brawl by telling five thugs from the Russian mafia that he hopes they’ll enjoy their hospital stay. What follows is the best movie fight since Viggo Mortensen’s sauna encounter inWhat really makes it work is that Hutch isn’t . Everybody is getting hurt, it’s just that he’s getting marginally less hurt than the other guys.
The general air of absurdity is further advanced by the casting ofas Hutch’s equally dangerous father, while the movie retains a requisite toehold in seriousness with Aleksey Serebryakov, as a Russian drug lord. When we first meet him, this drug lord is smiling and singing karaoke in a club. It’s a testament to Serebryakov’s ability that he is able to seem scary and strange — self-satisfied and disconnected — while acting happy and doing something innocuous.
M“Nobody”: Action comedy-drama. Starring Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen and Aleksey Serebryakov. Directed by Ilya Naishuller. (R. 92 minutes.) In theaters Friday, March 26.