While not every action movie these days is a superhero movie, there certainly are a hell of a lot of protagonists who do a damn good impression. From Jason Bourne, to the Fast & Furious films, to John Wick, pop culture is full of heroes who can take a ridiculous lickin’ and keep on tickin’. Interestingly, though, this was something that star Bob Odenkirk wanted to specifically avoid in director Ilya Naishuller’s Nobody, as he wanted his character to sustain serious damage throughout the story and make it feel real.
As featured in the video at the top of this article, I had the pleasure of interviewing Odenkirk last month during the virtual press day for Nobody, and during the conversation I pointed out that he isn’t shown to be a flawless fighter in his action movie debut. Directly referencing other movies of the era, he explained that he wanted his character, Hutch Mansell, to stand out in the crowded genre, saying,
I thought one thing that I could bring to this is [that] a lot of the action heroes of the last 20 years have been kind of killing machines; they don't really get hurt, and they never flag in their energy. They never kind of accrue damage – which is cool to see, the Bourne films, the John Wick films. I love that stuff too, but I thought I could play a guy who actually gets hurt and who maybe isn't sure he's gonna succeed.
Hutch is an adroit fighter (for spoiler reasons that I won’t disclose prior to the movie’s release), but what fits with Bob Odenkirk’s viewpoint and the character’s backstory in Nobody is that the character is definitely out of practice in the art of delivering violence. When we are introduced to him in the story he is a man who has become numb living an ordinary, suburban, 9-to-5 existence, and thus it makes all the sense in the world that his fisticuff skills are a touch rusty. His reaction timing is a bit off, as are his dodging skills, but he is still able to deliver a powerful punch.
There are many crazy action sequences in Nobody where Bob Odenkirk gets the opportunity to open a can of whoop-ass, but the best in the movie is a fight that takes place on a public bus, and the actor directly referenced it in our conversation. In the scene Hutch finds himself wanting to vent some aggression against a group of loudmouth drunks harassing an innocent young woman, but there is a twist in the attitude you’d expect. Odenkirk delivers what would ordinarily be a classic hero line, but his delivery is intended not to feature the confidence you’d expect. He continued,
Hopefully when I say that line, 'I'm gonna fuck you up,' there's a look in my eyes that says, 'Maybe I'm not. I hope I will, I want to, but maybe I won't.' That was kind of a goal of making this movie, was to bring a frailty and an uncertainty to the character and then to have his pain accrue through the course of the action sequences. So I tried to deliver on that. I hope I did.
With a style all his own, Bob Odenkirk’s action skills legitimately are the best part of Nobody, and hopefully it will lead to a whole new era in his career – much in the same way that Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul totally changed the way we look at him post-Mr. Show.