REVIEW: Nobody (2021)

nobody_posterIn Nobody, a quiet middle-class husband and father is revealed to have a dark and violent past. He unleashes his rage on a group of young criminals – and that leads to him being targeted by the Russian mafia. You would be forgiven for calling it a bald-faced act of plagiarism, drawing as it does the majority of its premise, plot, and execution from the vastly superior John Wick (2014). The thing is Nobody, which is directed in a perfunctory manner by Ilya Naishuller, is written by Derek Kolstad: the writer and creator of – you guessed it – John Wick.

What we have here is not a plagiarised copy of John Wick but instead a stunningly cynical lack of imagination. In all honesty the most creative part of Nobody is how Kolstad has effectively sold the same screenplay twice to two different movie studios. Everything else feels like a photocopy of an already archetypal predecessor, so lazily reprinted that can as good as see the copier lines.

Is it awful? Not necessarily, but it is so redundant a film as to be safely ignored. After all, why waste time with Nobody when you could simply watch John Wick twice? It had better direction, visuals, and production values, and boasted a vastly more believable lead actor in Keanu Reeves. Nobody makes a bold casting play in hiring comic actor Bob Odenkirk, requiring him to balance playing against type with retaining his widely acclaimed comedy skills. It works, but only in a serviceable fashion. The film that surrounds him is simply not putting in enough effort for it to make a difference. There a few other surprising casting choices that give the film some inventive glimmers, but they’re best left for audiences to find out for themselves. 

Nobody is also a prime example of somewhat tedious trend in action cinema. The action stars of the 20th century were mostly near-immortal paragons. They never faced a punch they couldn’t block, or a bullet they couldn’t dodge. By the 1980s this trend started to weaken, whether via Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones or Bruce Willis in Die Hard. The heroes became more vulnerable, and this made them a bit easier with whom to relate. These days it feels like the two tropes have been thrown into a blender. Contemporary heroes – and this includes both Odenkirk in Nobody and Reeves in Wick – get beaten, shot, and stabbed. They get their faces smashed in, their bodies bruised and broken, and survive the most ridiculously over-the-top car crashes, falls from great heights, and epic martial arts battles. Just like the iconic Energiser Bunny, however, they keep limping on. It is a pretense to satisfy an audience’s desire for increasingly brutal and confronting action, but at its heart it’s a return to the 20th century paragon. It is getting to the point where they all may as well play Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800; they’re clearly all unkillable robots in the end.

All up, Nobody is simply a mediocre contemporary action film. If all you want is violent gunfights and stabbings with a few bleak jokes and an awful lot of blood, it will suffice between John Wick instalments. If you want to watch something a step up from generic, copycat, lowest-common-denominator fare, you must understand that better options are available.

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