There’s bait and switch movies, and then there’s “Nobody.”
It’s fine for a film to start one way and radically shift gears before the second act. That just hints at this brain-dead Bob Odenkirk thriller. His fed-up Everyman leaves us wondering what might have been, along with a more nagging question.
Why bother in the first place?
Odenkirk stars as Hutch, a family man stuck in a middle American rut. He punches the clock each morning, slurps down way too much coffee and sleeps next to a pillow, not his lovely wife (an under-utilized Connie Nielsen).
Hutch’s humdrum existence is interrupted by a home invasion. He gets the drop on one of the burglars but freezes, leaving his older son (and co-workers) aghast at his cowardice.
Why didn’t Hutch act? More importantly, what will happen after he decides to hunt down the people who shattered his home’s tranquility … and his masculine veneer?
We’ll stop there to avoid spoilers, but it’s clear “Nobody” suggests a tantalizing spin on the vigilante template. It helps that Odenkirk taps a light comedic take on his character without sacrificing his darker impulses. Those are valuable tools for any screenwriter to engage. Except the rest of “Nobody” makes poor use of those gifts, going in directions that you won’t see coming but won’t care how things turn out.
Sorry, when your story is untethered by anything close to reality it’s hard to stay invested.
There’s a bad guy to be defeated, the kind who’s so over the top it makes his villainy … small. Aleksy Serebryakov’s Russian mobster is trying way too hard here, and even with all the burned calories he can’t leave an impression.
Odenkirk does what he can with the material, but there’s little to grasp onto beyond “John Wick”-styel violence and a few on-target wisecracks.
Director Ilya Naishuller (“Hardcore Henry“) engages in oodles of stylistic flourishes, from slo-mo scenes (natch) to action drenched with classic pop songs. It’s effective the first time, even dutifully nostalgic. By the third go around you’ll be rolling your eyes.
Then again, your orbs may start spinning early on as Hutch’s story grows sillier and less interesting. It’s violence on steroids, a pageantry of bullets made to look as hip as possible.
On the plus side, “Nobody” wraps in under 90 minutes and it’s great to see Christopher Lloyd’s crooked grin on screen once more. It’s still an embarrassing role for the “Taxi” alum, one of many begging for more context.
Hutch’s family dynamics are embarrassingly sketched, too, making his motivations muddy. Even if one takes “Nobody” at face value, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before in far more convincing shades.
Reeves’ trilogy is pure adrenaline, and its tepid character development never gets in the way. “Nobody” strives for something more profound and intimate and fails miserably on both counts.
HiT or Miss: “Nobody” offers a sly premise, an actor of considerable depth and a story that wastes little time squandering both.