Another piece, another end of the semester. But don’t fret good people, for I haven’t graduated just yet.
It’s hard nowadays to predict if any other film will be released successfully aside from the upcoming “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Detective Comics — better known as DC — films or new and cool ensemble features since big budget films come with even bigger marketing budgets.
It’s unfortunate many films either go under the radar or fail to find some sort of an audience because it becomes progressively more difficult to succeed in the film business. But that’s life, and even more so, that’s Hollywood. Within this landscape exists a genre of films called “Sleeper films” — typically great films on a theatrical or marketed run that generally go unnoticed by the public.
For 2021, look no further than Ilya Naishuller’s “Nobody.”
Directed by Naishuller and written by Derek Kolstad, the man behind the “John Wick” series, “Nobody” tells the story of Hutch Mansell, played by Bob Odenkirk. Mansell is a suburban father and husband who lives a minimalist life. But that all changes one night when a home invasion goes awry and sets Mansell on a city-wide plot of revenge, revealing his true self.
From the start, it’s incredibly entertaining to witness a man like Odenkirk set out on a quest of action-fueled vengeance, igniting some sort of hidden passion for executing revenge on another. Such a thing is done with great care though, for over-packed action is never a good thing.
“Nobody” progresses as a relatively mild dark family comedy as we are brought into the life of Mansell and his wife and two kids and their routine lives, plain hobbies and missing love within their family. It is set up perfectly for an outside occurrence, or better yet, an outside threat that drives the mundane family to breaking point. A careful build, tied with an even more careful ploy of plot, sets the viewer up for the ensuing ride.
It might sound sort of strange to praise the handling of the action and stunts in a film, but it is so easy to mess up or turn to CGI since gripping action makes for good entertainment.
But do we always need to look past being entertained? Action films succeed in delivering quality action scenes where the viewer feels as if they are a part of the action and are also at risk. “Nobody” does this exceptionally well as segments are woven together to not just forward the plot but actually build the character of the film and the character of Mansell as well — as he too seems to be along for this hectic ride just like us.
It is thrilling to see a suburban dad run around town taking any means necessary to make things right, even more so when some cases revolve around comedic set-pieces. This is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film — how it is relatively funny for a film with a rather dark and gritty tone.
It’s hard to successfully introduce comedy with a darker film as it can almost seem like an easy way to distract the audience from the substance of the film. However, Naishuller and Kolstad are brilliant in their way of letting action rise and settle and then shining a light on the comedy of situations. After all, a suburban dad trying to go out and beat up people is situational comedy at its simplest.
Taking a step aside from substance for a moment, it is important to mention how wonderfully shot the film is. With Pawel Pogorzelski on board, the cinematographer behind the Ari Aster hits “Midsommar” and “Hereditary,” there is no bad shot in “Nobody.” Scenes are not just crafted to the action but they are crafted to the camera — a symbiotic relationship between stunt and film where the camera plays as the seeing eye over everything.
Pogorzelski, if anything, is innovative with his work as the bus scene in the film acts as proof — a fantastic scene that is one of the best choreographed action sequences I have seen in quite some time — that at the end of it all, “Nobody” is nothing short of exceptional.
A unique and enthralling piece of action and thrill, “Nobody” succeeds on so many levels. It’s just a shame it went so under the radar.