Nobody (2021):”Don't call 911”
Life can be a series of seemingly endless days repeating the same chores automatically according to a predictable schedule. That’s how it seems for Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk). He wakes up in his suburban home, prepares breakfast, pours a coffee, forgets to put out the rubbish bin for collection, goes to work, audits the factory’s accounts and returns home to face an uncomfortable silence from his wife, Becca (Connie Nielsen), and teenage son, Blake (Gage Monroe). The only sunny disposition in the family resides in his young daughter, Abby (Paisley Cadorath).
A family man: Hutch, Becca, Blake & Abby
As he slides into bed next to Becca, we sense that he’s unsettled, although that could be a hint that relations between himself and his wife are strained.
Everything appears predictable…until it’s not.
One night Hutch is woken by intruders who he confronts but, for some reason unknown to us but that he recognises, he doesn’t retaliate against the intruders. His colleagues and family think he’s weak and unable to be forceful. For Hutch, his decision to spare the intruders results in a seething rage within him that needs to be unshackled.
Hutch is just an auditor, a husband and a father…until he isn’t.
His raging, concealed self is unleashed when, in the film’s pivotal scene, he’s confronted by a gang of thugs on a bus. In his mind, he invites the thugs to board the bus. His hidden self is about to step out from beneath his mild-mannered veneer. Undoubtedly, mayhem will ensue.
Hutch confronts Kuznetsov: the outcome is inevitable
The thugs are associated with a Russian criminal organisation, Obshak, and one of their sociopathetic henchmen, Yulian Kuznetsov (Aleksey Serebryakov). Obshak and Kuznetsov are representative of a societal evil that needs to be expunged. Hutch is the man to initiate the annihilation. As the lyrics to one of the songs on the soundtrack, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, indicate, Hutch is “a man who’s intentions are good, oh, Lord, don’t let (him) be misunderstood”.
Other songs on the soundtrack emphasis the stark characterisation of a man of few words. Hutch explains himself and his actions in aphorisms from songs, such as “I gotta be me” and “Things I gotta do”.
Hutch: a man of good intentions who is misunderstood
Bob Odenkirk in Nobody, similar to Liam Neeson in Taken, Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher and Keanu Reeves in John Wick, is a straightforward, seemingly mild-mannered character in a simple tale about retribution and one person stepping up in seemingly uncharacteristic fashion to confront forces impacting on his life and, by opposing, end them.
When asked by the police about his identity after he unleashes armageddon, Hutch replies quietly and calmly while smoking a cigarette as the blood becomes encrusted on his face, “I’m nobody”.
Hutch might be closer to Michael Douglas’s character, William Foster, in Falling Down. Both Hutch and Foster get to a point where they’ve just had enough. In reality, most people would suffer and bear the abuse that Hutch experiences, but in movies such as Nobody, the perpetuators are annihilated. The bottom line is that you never cross this man.
The characters and events serve nothing more than an ignition point for Hutch to unleash his personal demolition of the villains who represent a blight on society. It’s a generic response to a broad issue. It would be understated to say Hutch’s approach is a bit excessive rather than subtle.
(Warning: Contains graphic violence)
Nobody is the kind of movie whose central premise is about an ordinary, everyday hero who takes out the bad guys. We know without doubt that the only possible outcome is that evil forces will be defeated and the hero will survive regardless of how bruised, battered and bloody he ends up. It is a cathartic experience for audiences who sometimes wish that existential issues could be easily sorted out in our real day-to-day lives.
Nobody becomes a modern cinematic morality tale similar to English medieval morality plays. Hutch is an average layperson who assumes the role as an arbiter of social conduct. When the villains invade his home and threaten his family, the switch is flicked. The supporting characters are personifications of abstract concepts, each aligned with either good or evil, virtue or vice.
You can either watch Nobody as an emotional release that resolves life’s problems neatly, albeit in a brutally violent manner, like a hit to the throat with a metal pipe, or you can delve deeper into the social implications and underlying focus on social norms and expectations about what we deem sacrosanct in our lives, such as family and family life, and what we would do to protect them. Either way, you, like Hutch and the villains, won’t be left unscathed.
Falling Down (1993)
A middle-aged man dealing with both unemployment and divorce, William Foster (Michael Douglas) is having a bad day. When his car breaks down on a Los Angeles highway, he leaves his vehicle and begins a trek across the city to attend his daughter's birthday party. As he makes his way through the urban landscape, William's frustration and bitterness become more evident, resulting in violent encounters with various people, including a vengeful gang and a dutiful veteran cop (Robert Duvall).