When an actor plays specific type of character for a long time, it is difficult to get a job playing something other than that. For example, when one mentions Tom Cruise, it would make sense to think of his leading action roles in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise or “Jack Reacher,” or “Top Gun.” Few people would think of his grotesquely hilarious turn as Les Grossman in “Tropic Thunder.” This unexpected casting choice is known as “playing against type.”
A new action thriller finds Bob Odenkirk playing against type in “Nobody.”
Odenkirk stars as Hutch Mansell, a father stuck in a rut, trying to leave a life of contract killing in his rearview mirror. The suppression of his darker times are lost on his friends and family as they see him as somebody who needs to be more masculine. A random home invasion one night unlocks the hidden rage of Mansell as he unleashes this hidden fury against those who threatened his wife and children.
Odenkirk got his start on the comedy show “Mr. Show” with David Cross, then earned multiple Emmy award nominations on “Better Call Saul.” The “Breaking Bad” offshoot finds Odenkirk playing Saul Goodman, a fast talking lawyer who is willing to do anything for his clients. These two roles did not establish him as an action star, but this film does.
The first scene establishes that this is not the Bob Odenkirk of years past with his five o’clock shadow, a bruise under his eye, and he is slowly dragging on a cigarette. Maybe he is entering the second phase of his career and it will bring more action to his resume.
It is a great performance apart from the surprise of a funny guy playing an action hero. He has some amusing one liners and a great physicality when the violence hits. While there were some stuntmen used for the fights, Odenkirk did train for two years leading up to the film’s production. His fighting starts off as rough as anyone else’s father would be, but once the plot kicks into gear, so does the choreography.
Produced by David Leitch, the fighting sequences take after the Keanu Reeves-led “John Wick” franchise in which Leitch also worked on. When the punches start to fly, the camera stays back and lets the audience see the action. This new wave of action directing is so refreshing after the horrible shaky-cam phase action films went through in the 2000s. All of these elements combine together to create a genuinely entertaining film.
When there aren’t any bones to be broken, the film is still enjoyable. Christopher Lloyd (“Back to the Future”) plays David Mansell, Hutch’s father, a grouch that ends up being helpful in unexpected ways during the climax. The Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA rounds out the cast as Hutch’s lost brother who only communicates solely through radio. His iconic voice is very well utilized.
“Nobody” is ironically memorable thanks to a phenomenal Odenkirk playing against type. It is a marketing miss by Universal to not hold on to this film for another month or so until the weekend of June 20, it would have been a perfect Father’s Day premiere.