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film review

Bob Odenkirk as Hutch Mansell in Nobody.Allen Fraser/Universal Pictures

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  • Nobody
  • Directed by Ilya Naishuller
  • Written by Derek Kolstad
  • Starring Bob Odenkirk, Aleksey Serebryakov and Connie Nielsen
  • Classification R; 92 minutes
Critic’s pick

If the future of action cinema requires that every middle-aged actor receive their own John Wick-ian franchise in which they get to play unassuming joes who are revealed to be ballistic killers, then, yes, please do take my money.

After Liam Neeson was turned into a CIA butt-kicker in the Taken series and Keanu Reeves revealed that he can murder hundreds without Morpheus in his John Wick saga, it is now Bob Odenkirk’s turn to lay waste to an army of nogoodniks with nothing but his particular set of skills (and many, many guns) in the new film Nobody. Yes, that Bob Odenkirk: the actor known to some as Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul’s lawyer with a heart of sweet sleaze and to others as one half of HBO’s cult sketch-comedy series Mr. Show with Bob and David (David being David Cross, who deserves his own assassin adventure, too, why not).

Bob Odenkirk is perfect as Hutch Mansell, whose contract-killer past is reawakened by a home invasion.Allen Fraser/Universal Pictures

Odenkirk’s casting is far and away the best thing about Nobody – the man is a perfect fit as Hutch Mansell, a mild-mannered accountant and father of two whose contract-killer past awakens after a home invasion. Asked to start the film as a suburban sad-sack and then flip a switch to highly skilled murder machine, Odenkirk nails the required extremes. And while the situation is played for dark laughs, Odenkirk’s commitment to the role is dead serious. He makes its ridiculousness believable. By the end of Nobody, I wanted desperately for the producers of the next Fast & Furious film to cast Odenkirk as the muscle-car-driving villain. In your heart of hearts, you know it would work, too.

The rest of Nobody is more wobbly, though not so much that audiences will feel robbed of its implicit B-movie charms. Director Ilya Naishuller is clearly enjoying the film’s many opportunities to create carnage, finding new and novel ways to use, say, a public bus as an arena of death. But there is also the sense that the director of 2015′s bombastic and sometimes garish Hardcore Henry doesn’t go far enough – that he’s holding back on his more perverse instincts. This isn’t (yet) some beloved multi-billion-dollar franchise that everyone’s watching over, Ilya – don’t worry, go nuts.

Maybe the director was restrained by Derek Kolstad’s mean but also too lean script, which cannot decide if it is taking place in our world or some sort of heightened reality akin to his John Wick films. (The screenwriter clearly has a niche.)

But these are small concerns. When Odenkirk rips through through the streets to the soundtrack of Pat Benatar’s Heartbreaker or when he faces off against a psychotic Russian gangster (Aleksey Serebryakov) pulled straight from Cold War-era propaganda or when he enjoys a father-son shootout with his old man (a wily Christopher Lloyd), Nobody feels just anonymous enough to work.

Allen Fraser/Universal Pictures

Nobody opens in Canadian theatres, dependent on local health restrictions, March 26

In the interest of consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe has eliminated its star-rating system in film and theatre to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts and dance. Instead, works of excellence will be noted with a Critic’s Pick designation across all coverage.