Nobody review

For F*** Magazine

Director: Ilya Naishuller
Cast : Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nielsen, RZA, Christopher Lloyd, Aleksei Serebryakov, Gage Munroe, Paisley Cadorath
Genre: Action/Thriller
Run Time : 92 min
Opens : 22 April 2021
Rating : NC16

What if Bob Odenkirk of Mr Show and Better Call Saul fame were the world’s greatest badass? That’s the premise of this action thriller, and it’s easier to buy than one might think.

Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) is a mild-mannered family man who works at a construction company owned by his father-in-law – a “nobody”. Hutch lives an ordinary existence with his wife Becca (Connie Nielsen) and their two children, Blake (Gage Munroe) and Sammy (Paisley Cadorath). A home invasion incident in which Hutch appears to fail to protect his family seems to cement his milquetoast status. However, when drunk gangsters threaten a woman on a bus, something within Hutch is unleashed and he takes them on. One of the gangsters is the younger brother of Russian crime lord Yulian (Aleksei Serebryakov), who oversees the Russian mafia’s investments. Hutch suddenly becomes a target of Yulian. Hutch’s half-brother Harry (RZA) and their elderly father David (Christopher Lloyd) also get drawn into the fray. Yulian and his men get more than they bargained for as they tangle with whom they assumed was just a nobody.

Nobody is an excellent action movie. It’s visceral, the action is brutal and well-staged without being overly stylised, there’s an energy and wit to the direction, and it has a leading man with surprise on his side. Director Ilya Naishuller helmed Hardcore Henry; the first feature-length action movie shot entirely from a first-person point of view. Nobody is much more conventional and polished but has just enough of that guerrilla vibe when it counts.

The John Wick connection is heavily played up in the movie’s promotional material, with the first movie’s co-director David Leitch on board as a producer, and all three films’ screenwriter Derek Kolstad on scripting duty. There is enough of a John Wick vibe here, while letting the movie be enough of its own thing. The supporting cast is great, especially when RZA and Christopher Lloyd show up. The movie has a sense of humour without that getting in the way of the action’s impact. “A better version of a direct-to-DVD movie” might seem like a back-handed compliment, but that’s a good description of Nobody. There’s a version of this that could have been completely workmanlike and dull, so it’s a treat that it did not end up that way.

Nobody is mostly riding on the novelty of Odenkirk in the lead. Take that away, and many of its constituent parts are generic. Major components of the movie seem copy/pasted from the first John Wick, especially the villain Yulian. In John Wick, the hero is attacked by a Russian mob boss’ son, while in Nobody, it’s a Russian mob boss’ younger brother. Connie Nielsen gets very little to do, the Becca character relegated to the role of “the wife” as so many similar characters in similar movies have been before. There are perhaps a few too many ironic needle drops, with songs like “What a Wonderful World,” “The Impossible Dream” and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” underscoring violent sequences. It’s during these moments that the movie gets a bit too smart alecky.

Nobody is wish fulfilment in the way many action movies of the 80s and 90s were. What if everyone thought you were lame, but you were secretly an awesome tough guy? The movie leans just enough into the initial absurdity of its premise, without winking too hard at the audience. The thing about the action stars of yore were Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme or Dolph Lundgren couldn’t blend into a crowd. Bob Odenkirk could. His performance in this film is a glimpse at what things could’ve been like if Bruce Willis, who also came from a comedy background, still made an effort. The closest analogue to this is the string of late-career Liam Neeson action movies, but even then, he was already known for serious roles. It might seem like a big ask for audiences to accept Saul Goodman as John Wick, but Odenkirk puts in the work. He trained for two years to perform his own stunts, and it pays off.

Summary: Casting an actor who’s not known as an action star as the lead in an action movie is a gamble. In Nobody, it not only pays off, but it makes the action-thriller one of the most entertaining genre entries in recent memory. Genre aficionados will get a good action movie, and on top of that, you get Bob Odenkirk as you’ve never seen him before.

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Hardcore Henry

For F*** Magazine

HARDCORE HENRY 

Director : Ilya Naishuller
Cast : Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett, Tim Roth
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 96 mins
Opens : 14 April 2016
Rating : R21 (Violence and Gore)

“Henry” is a bit of an odd name for an action hero. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a fine name, but perhaps a quaint one – characters like Professors Henry Higgins and Henry Jones Sr. come to mind. The contraction “Hank” just seems much more suited as a moniker for a kicker of ass. Anyway, Henry awakes in a top-secret lab, having been brought back from the dead with cutting-edge robotics technology with no recollection of his former life, and without the ability to speak. Henry’s wife Estelle (Bennett) is there to greet him when he awakens, but Henry soon finds himself pursued by the mercenary army of Akan (Kozlovsky), a dangerous megalomaniac with telekinetic powers. Only Jimmy (Copley), a scientist with knowledge of Akan’s schemes, can help Henry make sense of it all, as Henry finds himself caught in one high-octane skirmish after another.

            Hardcore Henryis built on a nifty gimmick: it’s the first feature-length action film shot entirely from a first-person perspective. Writer-director Ilya Naishuller is the frontman of Russian indie rock band Biting Elbows, and he gained fame by creating music videos that were mini-action extravaganzas all shot from a first-person point of view. In this film, the titular role is played by around 10 cinematographers and stunt performers, including Naishuller himself, wearing a specialized GoPro camera rig. Hardcore Henry is definitely for a niche audience, specifically viewers who find themselves bored with pedestrian action flicks showcasing competently choreographed fights and chases, but nothing too special. Naishuller delivers a product that is (eye)balls to the wall in every sense, the whole thing coming off like a fever dream. Perhaps it’s easiest to compare it to the Jason Statham-starring Crank and Crank 2, Naishuller’s anarchic style of shooting action reminiscent of Neveldine/Taylor’s devil-may-care approach.

            Hardcore Henryis a mess, but not an irredeemable one and, in fact, quite an interesting mess. If the trailer alone made you nauseous, you’ve probably decided not to watch the whole thing. It’s abundantly obvious that those prone to motion sickness should stay away, but the shaky-cam didn’t affect this reviewer as much as he thought it would. On the one hand, it’s challenging to make out most of what’s going on, but on the other hand, it lends the film a visceral vibe and simulates a drug-induced buzz. There are myriad logistical challenges in capturing all the action with just one camera, and if one stunt performer (there are dozens in several scenes) makes one wrong move, it means a retake; you can’t cut to a different angle. Also, the actors have to augment their performances because they’re not interacting with a fellow actor, they’re acting directly to camera – and actors are trained to try to ignore the camera as far as possible.

            Copley is outstanding in this. There’s a puzzling mystery to his character that only gets solved towards the end of the second act, but even though we can’t make complete sense of Jimmy at the outset, Copley’s charisma ensures we keep watching. We won’t give away why, but he gets to play with multiple accents and even performs a full-on dance number. Russian heartthrob Kozlovsky undergoes a complete transformation, sporting a white wig and bleached eyebrows. His Akan is an expectedly over-the-top supervillain and the extent of the character’s power is put on frightening display. Bennett, of Music and Lyrics fame, seems out of place in the film’s setting – but then again it serves the character who’s mostly a damsel in distress, though there’s a smidgen more to Estelle than meets the eye.

            The sheer amount of gleeful violence packed into Hardcore Henry is designed to make the audience wince and laugh simultaneously. It’s graphic, but almost in a cartoony way, akin to the bloodshed on display in the satirical sci-fi action film RoboCop. There’s also gratuitous nudity, with an extended scene set in a brothel. Hardcore Henry doesn’t take itself seriously at all, and there are moments such as when Henry tries to ride a horse with a snippet of the Magnificent Seven theme playing in the background that are genuinely funny. The snarky comment “nobody likes to watch someone else play a videogame” has been used as a criticism against the film and we can see the point there, but there’s just so much energy, conviction and sheer mayhem on display that it’s hard to deny Hardcore Henry entirely.

Summary:It’s messy and incoherent in parts, but Hardcore Henry’s good use of its gimmick, impressive stunt work and how irrepressibly unhinged it is will make this worth checking out for genre aficionados.

RATING: 3out of 5 Stars 

Jedd Jong