Cert 16, in cinemas nationwide
Whisper it, but masculinity might be undergoing something of a revival.
Until relatively recently, Hollywood used to churn out schlocky, chest-beating action flicks in which men were men and dames were rescued.
Manliness was still stuck in the John Wayne paradigm, and the best kind of man was one who knew his way around a firearm and had a knack for taking down heavily accented baddies.
Until, that is, the macho man was told to sit the hell down and zip it, so that the screen-hero garb could be tried on by others, and a more nuanced, knowing take on heroics could be put up in lights for a change.
It might just be the case now that we’ve come full circle and there’s an appetite to watch a tough guy pummel waves of foreign villains looking to infringe on the Western way of life.
With cyber attacks and Kremlin impunity currently en vogue, the Russians are once again fair game to launch any pumped-up Denzel or Keanu at. Bob Odenkirk now picks up the baton in this abundantly violent revenge yarn about an ordinary Joe pushed too far. Or at least that’s what the snappily edited intro leads us to believe.
We don’t quite meet Hutch Mansell as observe the dead-eyed monotony of his suburban routine, so devoid of variance or novelty that within seconds we have a sense of the father-of-two’s life flying by in an inane blur.
A dull civility has set in with his wife (Connie Nielsen), and he is even forced to make a crust working for his gruff father-in-law (Michael Ironside, himself a wonderful character actor from the golden age of macho cinema). This human doormat couldn’t be more emasculated.
When burglars break into Hutch’s home and he resists the opportunity to defend his family, he seems to lose the respect of everyone around him, from the cops taking his statement to his teenage son (Gage Munroe).
But every bet-down dad has a boiling point – a “breaking dad”, if you will – and when it turns out the crooks got away with a silly toy pendant beloved of his daughter, Hutch ditches the suburban drone shtick and shows us his dormant true colours.
It turns out that he was a deadly field operative in his former life working for “agencies with three letters” in their names.
After tracking down the robbers and finding them too small-time to bother with, a chance to break some bones comes when a handful of Russian yobs take over a bus he is a passenger on. Hutch hospitalises them in a bludgeoning set-piece, and in doing so, inadvertently clobbers the brother of a vicious kingpin (brilliant Russian powerhouse Aleksey Serebryakov) who comes for him at his home.
That sets in train a breezy 90 minutes of Hutch declaring war on not only the local Russian crime syndicate but his futile attempt to suppress who and what he really is.
Director Ilya Naishuller and writer Derek Kolstad (who, surprise-surprise, authored the John Wick franchise) serve up the uncomplicated goodies with a great sense of hangdog fun that keeps a toe in domestic mundanity during the dizzying fight choreography.
It’s time we all finally admitted that Breaking Bad was seriously overrated and not befitting the great era of TV drama it was often categorised within. It did, however, give us Odenkirk, who, as huckster lawyer Saul Goodman, stole the show so much that spin-off series Better Call Saul felt inevitable.
Now 58, the Emmy-winner puts in a hugely physical performance here, and brings not only some of the arid shamelessness that first caught our eye but also a bit of beaten-down desperation.
There is a temptation to write off Nobody as a suburban John Wick, or The Equalizer with a school run. It is a little two-dimensional and functional – even if it does realise that function superbly – but there is an unreconstructed value about it all that is hard to dislike. It is also not quite as grim as those other recent outings.
Odenkirk and Serebryakov somehow maintain a slight edge of silliness under the gurning, while the great Christopher Lloyd, playing Hutch’s unassuming dad, is clearly in his element.
As for modern masculinity, there are no deep insights here. What you might find, however, is a reminder that you need the old dog for the hard road.