Release Date(s)2021 (June 22, 2021)
Studio(s)Perfect World/87 North Productions/Universal Pictures (Studio Distribution Services)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
Director Ilya Naishuller’s Nobody could easily be mistaken for a John Wick spinoff, especially considering that it was written by Derek Kolstad, produced by David Leitch, and has similar story beats. But the project was actually initiated by Bob Odenkirk, who also served as producer on the film. He was inspired by his own family’s experience with a home invasion, and he wanted to imagine how things could have gone differently if he had been someone else. He brought Kolstad in to develop the idea further, and naturally the writer gravitated towards the familiar milieu developed for the John Wick series—though it’s important to note that this film doesn’t actually take place in the same universe. Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) is a milquetoast middle-class working man whose house is broken into one night. Despite having the opportunity to subdue the attackers, he resolves the situation peacefully—much to the disappointment of his wife (Connie Nielson), his son, and even the police. When he discovers that his daughter’s kitty bracelet is missing, he snaps and goes after the thieves, but a chance encounter on a bus brings him afoul of the Russian mafia led by Yulian (Aleksey Serebryakov). That’s no problem, because Hutch is no longer going to back down from anything in his life.
Like John Wick, the protagonist is triggered by something involving an animal, though it’s significant that this particular trigger is far more trivial. Wick’s dog can be read as a symbol of his connection to his lost wife, but there’s no such meaning for Hutch with the kitty bracelet since his daughter remains perfectly safe and sound. Instead, it’s merely an excuse. Nobody doesn’t make any pretense towards the warped morality system of the John Wick series; instead, it presents a gleefully amoral world in which violence is something to be anticipated rather than being a last resort. Wick was a character who got out of the system and didn’t want to get dragged back in, but Hutch desperately wants to be a part of that system and will happily grasp at any pretext to do so. As the narrative progresses, he has multiple opportunities to walk away, but chooses to escalate instead—at one point, he even literally crosses his fingers in the hopes that his offer of peace will be rejected.
Odenkirk does a remarkable job playing against type; he trained relentlessly for the film, and it shows. He also faces a suitable antagonist in Serebryakov, who hides his menace under a flamboyant exterior—Yulian is one of several characters in the film who isn’t quite what he seems to be at first. The rest of the cast is filled out with memorable faces (and voices) including Christopher Lloyd, Michael Ironside, Colin Salmon, and the RZA. Naishuller keeps things moving while still letting the action play out in longer takes instead of relying on quick cutting, which gave Odenkirk plenty of space to shine. There’s very little shaky camerawork, so the action is refreshingly comprehensible. Naishuller was also ruthless in keeping the film efficient, tossing out subplots and eliminating pages of dialogue in the process. As a result, Nobody runs a commendably lean 92 minutes, with little extraneous filler.
Nobody was shot digitally by cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski in Redcode RAW format (at 6K) using Red’s Gemini, Helium, and Monstro cameras, with Hawk V-Lite and C-series lenses. The film was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate, framed at 2.35:1 for its theatrical release. For this Ultra HD version, Universal upscaled that DI to 4K and graded it for high dynamic range (both Dolby Vision and HDR10 are included on the disc). Detail appears slightly refined compared to the Blu-ray, though not dramatically so. A fine layer of artificial grain has been added throughout, which looks natural while giving the film a bit more texture. There’s little noise, even in the darkest scenes. The HDR grade opens up the contrast range, providing truly deep blacks as well as glowing highlights—the nighttime cityscapes appear quite beautiful. The colors are well saturated, with warm but organic-looking flesh tones.
Primary audio is offered in English Dolby Atmos and it’s a suitably energetic track. The surrounds and overheads are active throughout the film, and there’s plenty of dynamic impact as well. Still, it’s a bit less aggressive than other action films, since the effects are often dialed down in favor of ironic source music. But moments like that are essential for the intended the tone of the film. Additional audio options include Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus and French 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English SDH, Spanish, and French.
Universal’s Ultra HD release of Nobody is a 2-Disc set which includes a Blu-ray of the film in 1080p, a Digital Copy code on a paper insert, and a slipcover. The extras are identical on both discs, but all of them are featured in 4K SDR on the UHD:
- Audio Commentary with Bob Odenkirk and Ilya Naishuller
- Audio Commentary with Ilya Naishuller
- Deleted Scenes (3 in all – 4:58)
- Hutch Hits Hard (3:52)
- Breaking Down the Action: Bus Fight (5:31)
- Breaking Down the Action: Home Invasion (4:19)
- Breaking Down the Action: Car Chase (3:13)
- Breaking Down the Action: Tool and Die (6:02)
- Just a Nobody (12:53)
The first commentary gives Odenkirk a chance to lighten up after playing his character straight, but he tends to act as a cheerleader far too often, and he spends too much time describing what’s happening on screen. He also dominates the proceedings, which is unfortunate since Naishuller does provide more detailed information when given the chance to talk. The two do offer interesting production stories, and Odenkirk spends time explaining his own home invasion experience—the reaction of the second police officer in the film is based on what a real officer said to him. The second commentary gives Naishuller more breathing room to get into the practical details of making the film. He discusses the development of the script, and notes how budget cuts forced rewrites to shorten the film. He explains that his own inspirations were Korean dramas like Oldboy, but that he was the one who changed the villains in the script from Korean to Russian—that actually wasn’t Kolstad’s idea, so once again some of the apparent connections to John Wick were incidental. Naishuller was also responsible for bringing in Serebryakov despite the studio pushing for a more well-known American actor. Naishuller describes the final cut of Nobody as being the director’s cut of a producer’s cut of a director’s cut—the film kept getting shorter each time, and he’s happy to give credit to Leitch for figuring out how to tighten up the second act. He also notes the importance of having the action escalate, which is why he pushed to change the climactic battle to include a couple of other key characters when the script had Odenkirk fighting solo. This solo commentary is the preferable one of the two.
The deleted scenes all involve a subplot where Hutch’s father-in-law tries to get information from Pentagon Darren about Hutch’s background in the military. While it’s easy to understand why they were cut, they would have given a little more screen time for Michael Ironside and Colin Salmon—but it’s interesting to see how Pentagon Darren’s shots were repurposed in the final cut. Hutch Hits Hard is a look at the two-year training regimen that Odenkirk went through to prepare for the film. Breaking Down the Action is a collection of four featurettes which cover the key set pieces, featuring interviews with Odenkirk, Naishuller, and members of the 87Eleven Action Design stunt team. They can be played individually or as a group. Just a Nobody is a look at the development of the film, including interviews with Odenkirk, Naishuller, and other members of the cast and crew. Odenkirk talks about his inspiration for the story, and his difficulty as a comedian in playing the role straight with no irony. He also acknowledges the wish fulfillment involved. Naishuller describes the film as a story about addiction, and they also cover the casting of Christopher Lloyd and the RZA. While these featurettes are brief, Universal does helpfully provide a “Play All” option to tie all of them together.
Nobody strikes an interesting tone for an action adventure, and it’s fair to question the cathartic entertainment value provided by some of its extreme violence. In a strange way, however, that’s offset by the way that Hutch is presented as the polar opposite of a reluctant participant in the carnage. His gleeful enthusiasm keeps him from feeling heroic, and that’s the key to appreciating the film. Hutch barely even qualifies as an anti-hero; instead, he’s an addict getting his long overdue fix. It’s Odenkirk’s native charisma which makes audiences a willing participant in his journey—much like with Jimmy McGill’s transformation into Saul Goodman. That arguably says more about us as viewers than it does about the characters—we’ll happily follow an Alex DeLarge or a Walter White as long as we still find them appealing. That provides curious layers to Nobody, and given the fact that Naishuller openly acknowledges the addiction metaphor, they may not have been unintentional.
- Stephen Bjork
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