Slippin’ Bob

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Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures

‘Nobody’ is a waste of time, and a waste of Bob Odenkirk

Attention fans of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul: The new action flick Nobody tampers unashamedly—we might as well say clumsily—with actor Bob Odenkirk’s most identifiable screen persona. Gone is “Slippin’ Jimmy” McGill a.k.a. Saul Goodman, the lovable con man/hustler/shyster lawyer from the above two hit cable TV series, forever trying to noodge his way to success by making life easier for criminals, including himself.

By contrast, in Nobody Odenkirk plays dissatisfied suburban everyman Hutch Mansell, a middle-class schmendrick with a problem: Everyone humiliates him, and they always get away with it. Until they don’t. The turning point in Hutch’s humdrum existence occurs late one night when he confronts a pair of home invaders. From then on, he’s in a tumble dryer turned up to “Max,” whirling around vigorously with the burglars, surly guys in a tattoo parlor, drunken goons on a city bus and what seems like a regiment of Russian gangsters. We learn new things about Hutch, but instead of gratification we feel disappointment.

Let’s go back to Jimmy McGill—he’s more interesting than Hutch. The most enjoyable aspect of Odenkirk’s Jimmy is his self-deprecating sense of humor. He realizes he’s a hopeless fuck-up but he never stops trying to get over, often hilariously. As Nobody lurches through its trite revenge mechanics we keep expecting Hutch to talk his way out of deadly situations, too, because that’s what Jimmy would do. Maybe sell the thugs some vacation time shares or something. But, no.

Unfortunately Vince Gilligan, the guiding light behind Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul and El Camino, has nothing to do with Nobody. Instead, the new film is the directorial debut of Ilya Naishuller, a video game creator, from a screenplay by shoot-em-up honcho Derek Kolstad, of the Keanu Reeves Wick franchise. Maybe that explains how sad-sack Hutch instantly transforms himself into a kinetic dynamo of mayhem, mowing down bad guys as efficiently as Liam Neeson, Gerard Butler, Danny Trejo or Charles Bronson. But there’s really no accounting for Hutch’s newfound expertise in the ways of death. It just happens and then is explained away hurriedly, amid lamebrain dialogue, amateurish acting by much of the supporting cast and lazy character construction. There are quite a few unanswered questions.

The principal heavy, a ruthless, Euro-trash, disco-and-shiny-clothes dude named Yulian Kuznetsov (no sign of his girlfriend, Lydia Ratchakakov) is portrayed by Russian-import Aleksey Serebryakov, a veteran of multiple mega-violent scenarios. Yulian and everybody in his gang are twice the size of Hutch. No matter, the wimp reduces the brawler to a plate of steak tartar with the help of burglar traps left over from Home Alone. As the bodies pile up we keep hoping it will somehow turn into a parody—they could hire Macaulay Culkin to come back and operate the gadgets. There are entire stretches of this, while Hutch is busy bloodying his foes, in which the audience could go to the concession stand for a tub of nachos without missing anything. However, currently no concessions are open in theaters. Maybe in another month or two, but Nobody will probably be gone by then—it has all the earmarks of a one-weekend event.

If we peer closely through the arterial spray, we might recognize the faces of Christopher Lloyd and RZA as Hutch’s allies. Lloyd (Back to the Future) might be seen as the fulcrum of the plot, but the lever, Hutch, remains a mystery long after the sequel-ready ending. What motivated Odenkirk to try his hand as a martial arts killing machine? Is he trying to be the next Bruce Willis? Nobody was originally scheduled to open in 2020, but now joins its fellow “lost movies” crowding into 2021. On the bright side, it’s rumored that season six of Better Call Saul will air sometime this year. In the meantime, approach Nobody as if it were an infection.

In theaters March 26.