Saturday, July 3, 2021

Movie Reviews: Nobody

directed by Ilya Naishuller
There is a trope known as "Mugging the Monster" that is popular in various forms of art: visual, written, and musical. 
Usually this involves stupid or dangerous people insulting, messing with or (per trope) literally mugging someone who is far more dangerous, competent, and most importantly, malevolent, than they are. 
The monster proceeds to demonstrate to the unfortunate dummies how critical their mistake was and why they won't live long enough to regret it. The monster may kill, alter, maim or even eat the offenders.
This trope is older than dirt. In Greek mythology the human hunter Actaeon sees the goddess Artemis nude and considers assaulting her. Unworried, Artemis turns Actaeon into a stag who is then attacked and devoured by his own hounds. In the TV series Supernatural a man makes the mistake of bumping into Death. In The Legend of Wooley Swamp the musician Charlie Daniels sings of "white trash" who attacked and killed the old man Lucius Clay only to find revenge outlives death.
In The Terrible Old Man, H.P. Lovecraft wrote about three would be robbers who learn that the titular character can defend himself and isn't human. Has someone ever said or done something unpleasant to you without you making an immediate response. Maybe the person made a nasty joke at your expense. Maybe someone went out of his way to step on your blue suede shoes
Some people immediately retaliate to every provocation with maximum force. Other people second guess themselves, ruminate on a perceived offense, and promise to respond appropriately if it happens again. 
The situation usually worsens if family, friends, or others offer "advice" about what they would have done. Such advice can include unwanted dollops of shame or insult. 
The movie Nobody uses that trope and that human reaction to build an entertaining and occasionally comic movie that is equal parts drama and action. Nobody was written by the person who created the John Wick franchise. 
Nobody also draws on producer and lead actor Bob Odenkirk's (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul) real life experiences of suffering home invasions and the emotional rollercoaster of shame, blame, fear, and anger he rode as a result.
Hutch Mansell (Odenkirk) is a suburban nebbish. Hutch has two children and a wife. Hutch doesn't have a car. Hutch takes the bus to work at his father-in-law's (Michael Ironside) industrial metal manufacturing business. Hutch's macho brother-in-law (Billy MacLellan) looks down on him. Hutch's wife Rebecca (Connie Nielsen) still likes him but the erotic fire left their bedroom a long time ago. Everyone agrees that Hutch is a boring man with a boring life.

The Mansells suffer a nighttime home invasion. Hutch's teen son (Gage Munroe) fights back against the male and female criminals. Hutch however, deliberately chooses non-violence and de-escalation, letting the robbers go, though he has the perfect opportunity to brain one of the robbers with a golf club while his son is winning the fight. 
Because of Hutch's seeming cowardice, his son is beaten and a few items are stolen. The responding cops are snide and contemptuous; next door neighbors boast about how they wouldn't have taken any s*** the way that Hutch did. 
Hutch's brother-in-law is concerned about his sister's safety and gives Hutch a gun. Hutch's son and wife lose more respect for him. Just about everyone except Hutch's little daughter Sammy thinks less of Hutch because of the incident. 
But it's Sammy's statement that her kitty-cat bracelet is missing that trips the wire that was holding in place the last block of a jenga tower keeping an increasingly frustrated monster locked in the basement. 
Now that monster is free for the first time in years. And it's angry! Hutch goes looking for the people who stole his daughter's bracelet. 

Those who are smart enough to deduce Hutch's identity or previous line of work lock themselves behind iron doors or quit their jobs and go into hiding. Others become object lessons. 
One man trying to avoid becoming such an example is Russian mobster Yulian (Alexsei Serebryakov) . Yulian had nothing to do with the initial chain of events but has the bad luck to be the sheep when the wolf is on the rampage. RZA and Christopher Lloyd have small roles. Nobody has lots of black humor. Nobody also has lots of violence. The 90 minute running time was just about perfect. I had no problem believing Odenkirk in this role.
This movie walks the same side of the street as such films as Death Wish, John Wick, Taken, The EqualizerThe Long Kiss Goodnight, and A History of Violence. The psychological motivations are a little different. I enjoyed it but depending on your tolerance for bloodshed, YMMV.
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