‘Nobody’ is still my name

“Nobody” may very well be the best Liam Neeson film ever made that doesn’t actually have Liam Neeson.

by Michael Bergeron

A home invasion brings out the best and worst in an average family. The father Hutch Mansell (Bob Odenkirk) has the drop on one of a pair of criminals demanding money but hesitates when he notices their .38 special has no bullets. The son has tackled the other assailant but Dad tells him to back off and let the bad guys hightail away.

“Nobody” is full of moments like this – you’re not sure of the motives of the characters. Is our paterfamilias unfit to defend his family? Or is there a deeper rationale behind Mansell’s behavior?

Successive scenes set at his workplace only lend confusion as to his real identity yet that ambiguity gives the film what little quality it will be remembered for.

A little later it’s revealed that Mansell has a certain set of, shall we say, skills. Some of those skills have become rusty so Mansell uses a group of racist thugs on a bus to brush up on his physical adroitness.

“Nobody” takes a kind of pride in showing off the kind of muscle that wouldn’t be out of place in an ‘70s exploitation film starring Joe Don Baker or any of the number of loner action hero movies Neeson excels in. If a recent film were to pop to mind it would be the series of “Red” film (old people kicking ass and taking names) or even the 2007 Clive Owen hyperactive actioner “Shoot ‘Em Up.”

One of the punks Mansell roughed up was related to a Russian mobster and that drug kingpin wants revenge. Which means Mansell fires lots of weapons from a previously unknown arsenal. Mansell’s gets his father (Christopher Lloyd in a one-note turn), a retired assassin, out of mothballs for an eventual showdown with some Russian baddies.

Unfortunately this is where the filmmakers loose the flavor of the meal they tempted us with from the beginning. “Nobody” becomes a slow-motion ballet of ever increasingly boring set pieces that combine clever musical counterpoints with a kind of glamour photography best reserved for a Chanel No. 5 commercial.

The audience for this mayhem is not expected to know anything about films that go further back than “John Wick” or “”Hardcore Henry,” which not surprisingly are the previous credits of writer Derek Kolstad and director Ilya Naishuller.

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