blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Nobody (2021, Ilya Naishuller)

Wouldn’t it be funny if Bob Odenkirk were an action movie hero? Like a kick-ass one who doesn’t just use machine guns, but also does a lot of hand-to-hand fighting?

If you’re unfamiliar with Odenkirk, let’s just say it’s a “cast against type” situation to the extremis. Only it doesn’t matter because action movie special effects have gotten to the point they can turn anyone—quite easily—into an action movie hero.

Odenkirk is a Nobody, which is both a gimmick line and part of the eventual reveal. It takes an hour—into Nobody’s still very long ninety-seven minutes—to find out just how and why boring suburban dad Odenkirk is an old man action hero. The reveal’s not worth it, but if it had been worth it—especially after the plodding first act (Nobody’s relentlessly tedious)—it would’ve been a miracle given Derek Kolstad’s simultaneously lazy and bad script and director Naishuller’s startling mediocrity. There are some (many?) bad moments in Nobody’s direction, but there’s not a single good one. Never does Naishuller show any ingenuity, imagination, or… well, I’d love to find another i-word but it’s not surprise the film doesn’t have any insight… what would it have insight in? Certainly not any of the characters. Everyone’s either disposable, a stunt cast, or a disposable stunt cast.

Though it’s not not nice to see Christopher Lloyd able to kick it up a bit at eighty-three. And Michael Ironside is better than almost everyone else in the film with just two short scenes (he’s Odenkirk’s boss and father-in-law). But RZA’s not the stunt cast the film pretends, ditto Colin Salmon, though Salmon at least gets a real-ish scene. RZA’s just there for the pyrotechnics and smash cuts.

Evan Schiff and William Yeh’s cutting is incredibly even less imaginative than Naishuller’s direction; their lack of rhythm—along with Kolstad’s lousy writing—is what makes Nobody drag. Everyone’s trying to inflict personality on the picture only no one’s got any.

It’s most unfortunate for Odenkirk, who’s a game protagonist, but since the film’s so bad at turning him into an action hero, it’s never anything but the gimmick. Once it’s clear he can do the gimmick—and it’s clear really early on, sometime during the interminable first act—there’s nothing else to him.

Nobody gets a little energy out of big bad Aleksey Serebryakov—a karaoke-loving Russian mobster—at least until it’s clear Serebryakov isn’t any good. Is it his fault? Or is it Kolstad’s? Or Naishuller’s? Or maybe it’s just Nobody’s fault nobody is any good in Nobody.

The movie’s a middling “Saturday Night Live” sketch stretched out to almost 100 minutes.

It does have a good soundtrack—I mean, it opens with Nina Simone (and also a cute kitty cat), but then it turns out the Nina Simone (and the cute kitty cat) are just a ruse and they’ve got nothing to do with the content. But the soundtrack selections are a solid playlist. Editors Schiff and Yeh don’t cut things well to the songs, because of course they don’t, but at least during those sequences the music’s good. Otherwise, David Buckley’s score is the pits.

Nobody’s a badly written, badly directed, bland, bloody bore.

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