BRAWL, BABY, BRAWL: ‘NOBODY’ ISN’T WHO YOU MIGHT THINK

Ah, the theaters are open once again. You know what that means: the kind of prices that make piracy an attractive option; popcorn so old it votes Republican; and jerks who talk so loudly you want to fill their mouths with expanding sealant foam.

God, I missed it. Which is apt, as that sentence above could be a thesis for the movie Nobody.

You may be forgiven for thinking that this is just a John Wick knock-off, which is what its marketing would have you think. It’s understandable–John Wick upon its release was more popular than a female Twitch streamer with a dislike for conservative clothing. Nobody even superficially follows a few of Wick‘s story beats–like evil Russians, a glimpse of an otherworld for assassins, and a Good Man™ who is out of the killing business for good, cross his heart. However Nobody is an action movie more along the lines that you would have found Charles Bronson or Frank Sinatra or Clint Eastwood starring in back in the day.

The story itself does a naughty switcharoo too. See, at first it leads you to believe that it’s going to be a story about masculinity, emasculation, and violence. But no, this movie likes red meat and likes it cooked raw. It’s more about a man finding a balance between both of the lives he wants; between being a family man and his enjoyment of killing bad guys. 

The fight scenes are another big difference between this movie and John Wick. Whereas the fights in John Wick are something that are slick and carefully choreographed, more like a dance than anything, the ones in Nobody are more like the fights you get in bars on Saturday nights after the drink has been flowing for a few hours. It’s brutal, bloody, and as dirty as it gets while still being fake. The protagonist, Hutch, spends approximately two-thirds of the movie beaten up. 

While a lesser moviemaker would think that enduring physical pain would be all that makes a character, not so for Hutch. While he does go through a tremendous amount of pain, and endures it like the goddamn man’s man that he is, it’s not about his physical struggle. His struggle is that he has been trying to plant his feet in one of two worlds all his life. First, it was his job as the government’s boogeyman, then it was as a father and husband. Yet both of those became unsatisfying and unfulfilling in their own ways. Mundanity can come in many forms, and Hutch experienced the full spectrum of it. 

What he needs is to find a way to straddle both of his lives. While this is the end that the movie wants for Hutch, it doesn’t go about showing it all that well. It more indulges the “I missed this life of action and agency” element than “this is who I need to be.” The latter is there in the sort-of epilogue, but it’s not enough to fully, satisfyingly complete Hutch’s arc.

This would be as good a place as any, while we’re on the subject of the movie’s failures, to talk about the villain. Disappointingly, the villain, Yulian, is as one dimensional as it gets. He’s a crazy evil Russian. That’s your lot because that’s all we get on him. As much effort as the movie puts into Hutch, it puts the opposite amount into Yulian. However, strangely, this might be the best kind of villainous foil to Hutch. Yulian is man stuck in his past, when he was a more virile psycho of a man, and he doesn’t want to evolve who he is. As good as he may be for Hutch, he is shallow and uninteresting to watch. Cringe inducing at times, if I’m honest.

Nobody certainly tries to invoke the feel of the action movies of the ’70s (there’s even a Shaft reference if you look hard enough) with a modern update, appealing to the aging, middle-aged men who grew up on them. And the best part about it is that it doesn’t make a judgement on them, or a commentary on society. It’s just about a Good Man™, actually trying to be a good man, making the best life as he can. Oh, and brawling, too, because it’s cool. 

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