‘Nobody’ is the best action film in years, and unlikely star Bob Odenkirk is a big reason why

Dan Buffa, Special to the Jewish Light

Bob Odenkirk may not be your typical tough guy, but boy he can throw a punch. It just took audiences 30-plus years to see him do it.

Truth be told, the “Better Call Saul” star and “Breaking Bad” co-star wouldn’t be the first guy that comes to mind for the lead of a Derek Kolstad-penned script. The screenwriter is best-known around Hollywood as the creator of “John Wick,” the avenging hitman role that revitalized Keanu Reeves’ career.

But then again, “Nobody” doesn’t really play by cinema’s rules at all. You can thank Ilya Naishuller, the director, and Kolstad for creating a movie that exists in the realm of “something else” two weeks into its release. And it all starts with the unlikely tough guy in the preview.

Odenkirk — who quickly reminded “Saul” creator Vince Gilligan that he wasn’t Jewish upon casting — is the action lead, a factory number-puncher with some kind of rage bottled up inside him. His Hutch Mansell has a lovely wife (Connie Nielsen) and two kids, lives in a respectable neighborhood and has a fair job, but there is something eating away at him as he slurps his coffee, keeps the books and speaks as if his words are being audited.

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Christopher Lloyd, whom audiences know as the legendary Doc of “Back to the Future,” is Hutch’s dad and can see a crack in the facade of his son all the way from a nursing home. His brother, Harry, played by actor and former Wu-tang Clan member, RZA, speaks to him through a radio signal in Hutch’s office, but keeps a low profile and warns Hutch to do the same.

Odenkirk makes everything work in the lean 90-minute film. You believe him instantly as a guy with a need to impose his will, the father/husband slurping morning coffee and missing the trash pickup like a robot. The against-type performance makes this entertainment extra special.

Bob Odenkirk as Hutch Mansell in “Nobody,” directed by Ilya Naishuller. Photo Credit: Allen Fraser/Unive

Before he played Wick, Reeves was an established movie star best known for slowing down a bus and fighting evil guys in a computer-generated world. Odenkirk was the character who would duck and cover in most roles; he’s not the guy who closes the door of a bus with five thugs on it and challenges them to a fist-fight. The misdirection played into Naishuller’s execution and the audience’s hands here.

Confession: I’ve seen “Nobody” three times, and plan on watching it for a fourth time tonight with my dad. It’s a movie with a one track mind: Entertain! A simple setup with ingenious elements enriching the entire product.

If you had Saul Goodman, Doc Brown, and the Wu-tang Clan frontman as family standing shoulder-to-shoulder taking out Russian gangsters with machine guns on your 2021 bingo card, please come collect your winnings. It’s unlikely, glorious fun, and completely nonsensical. If action films tried to exist in a realistic world, where would the diversion be?

Odenkirk trained for two years to play Mansell, working with veteran stunt man, Daniel Bernhardt. The latter has a small role in the film as one of those ill-fated henchmen on the bus with Hutch. Imagine training an actor to eventually kick your butt. The dedication and work showed in the film. If not, the entire “Nobody” operation wouldn’t work. You needed a convincing lead that you didn’t see coming and Odenkirk was the guy.

And while he isn’t Jewish, he did marry a Jewish woman, talent manager and film producer Naomi Yomtov, and they raise their children Jewish. Married over 20 years, I am sure Yomtov didn’t mind the incredible shape that Odenkirk got into for the role of Hutch-but she fell in love with the voice most likely many, many years ago.

Words do seem to zing a little more coming out of Hutch’s mouth. He makes Kolstad’s dialogue stand tall, especially when using a fresh play on a familiar phrase. Now, for the rest of my days when I begin a semi-long story, I will quote Kolstad’s film and the actor by saying, “Short story long.” It’s the little things that made “Nobody” somebody to remember come awards time. That is, if the big, fancy trophy-givers can stand an excellently produced action flick. Can you? I hope so, so keep reading for where you can find it.

The film is available in theaters, such as Galleria 6 Cinemas, and on demand via Amazon for $19.99. Truth be told, it’s worth the 20 bucks if you aren’t ready for theaters. You’ll watch it twice.

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