By Richard Roeper
Signal Contributing Writer
Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Ilya Naishuller. Written by Derek Kolstad. Rated R (for strong violence and bloody images, language throughout and brief drug use).
The brilliant prequel series “Better Call Saul” is set in the years leading up to the events of “Breaking Bad,” but the pilot episode of the former show actually kicks off with Bob Odenkirk’s Jimmy McGill/Saul having fled his Albuquerque past and living a safe, boring existence as the manager of a Cinnabon in Omaha. Nobody would ever guess this unassuming, balding guy in wire-rimmed glasses and a bad mustache was once at the center of one wild s—storm.
We find Odenkirk in a similar situation at the outset of the crackling and violent and wickedly funny “Nobody,” this time playing an extraordinarily ordinary guy named Hutch Mansell, who works as an accountant at his father-in-law’s tool-and-die shop (where his macho brother-in-law delights in bullying him) and lives in a modest house with his wife, Becca (Connie Nielsen), and their two children. The mundane nature of Hutch’s life is hammered home in an early “Groundhog Day” sequence showing him going through the same routine day after day after day, including hauling out the garbage about 30 seconds too late once a week.
This guy is so unremarkable he’s almost invisible.
Little wonder, then, that Hutch doesn’t exactly spring into action when a couple of amateur burglars break into the house in the middle of the night, grabbing a few loose dollars from Hutch and quickly realizing there isn’t much else to steal. Hutch gets the drop on one of the burglars with a golf club but then backs down, leading everyone from his wife to his teenage son to the cops to his tough-talking next-door neighbor to express disappointment in him.
Hutch is ready to shrug it off and live with the humiliation, until he learns the thieves made off with his daughter’s kitty cat bracelet. That won’t do. Hutch is going to get that bracelet back — and the next thing you know, we’re knee-deep in a brutally violent, utterly implausible and thoroughly entertaining revenge flick with elements of the “Taken” and “John Wick” and “Equalizer” franchises, only in a somewhat lighter key.
Turns out Hutch once worked for a certain government organization as the guy you call when there’s no more talking or negotiating to be done, and that home burglary triggered something in him, and there will be no turning back. As happenstance and screenplay would have it, Hutch finds himself on a bus in the middle of the night with a half-dozen Russian thugs who are taunting a young woman, and he announces, “I hope these a——s like hospital food” before beating the living daylights out of the whole lot, while taking some pretty serious blows himself.
Now Hutch is REALLY back in the game, as one of his victims is the brother of a psychopath Russian mobster named Yulian (Aleksey Serebryakov, hamming it up to great effect), who will stop at nothing and will use all of his resources and all of his henchmen to track down and kill this, this … accountant.
Director Ilya Naishuller has an audacious style reminiscent of Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino, as elaborately choreographed gun battles and car chases play out to an eclectic soundtrack featuring everything from the music of Pat Benatar to Gerry & the Pacemakers’ version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the musical “Carousel.” Adding to the offbeat fun: Christopher Lloyd, cast against type, is great as Hutch’s father, a former FBI agent living in a retirement home who’s not nearly as docile as one might initially believe, and RZA as a mostly unseen voice in the night who acts as a kind of conscience and tour guide as Hutch navigates the moral and practical implications of getting involved in an all-out war with Russian mobsters. Serebryakov’s Yulian makes for a spectacular villain, with Serebryakov going fantastically over the top like a character in an opera, which is simultaneously terrifying and hilarious.
Most impressive of all is Odenkirk, who looks and sounds nothing like an action star until it’s time for Hutch to become an action star, and we totally believe this physically unimpressive, normally mild-mannered guy as a simmering cauldron of rage who could take that teapot over there and kill ya with it.
(Crime thriller, R, 118 minutes).
Liam Cunningham and Freddie Highmore lead a sparkling cast playing thieves determined to steal a treasure from deep beneath the Bank of Spain. It’s a sleek and well-choreographed effort with echoes of “Ocean’s 11” and “The Italian Job,” but with a cheeky personality all its own.
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