Action movies dominate the modern scene. Not only do they basically own the summer releases, they come out in high volume all around the calendar. This is far from limited to the tsunami of superhero movies and other franchises that seemingly have no plan on ending. One-off action movies are made just as much, and they seemingly get less and less inspired.
We keep seeing the same plot got revisited without any new developments to character types, story, and most importantly, the action itself. And that, right there, is the heart of the issue. Though I complain about the lack of originality of characters and story, simple action movies really only require unique action to meet the mark. It is here that we find a select batch of Hollywood movies that don’t need to bend over backwards to create worthwhile action.
The Equalizer and John Wick franchises are responsible for some of the best work in this supposed golden era of action. There are plenty of differences between the two but they have enough important similarities. Both have essentially the same plot, an elite fighter/marksman of sorts is trying to live a normal life until the past comes to get them and force them out of “retirement.” They both have A-List stars as the lead, though Denzel Washington as a lead is more of a game change than Keanu Reeves, who thrives in the genre. John Wick has done an excellent job of world building while The Equalizer has more focus on character development; the two main things that tend to separate Keanu and Denzel movies.
2021’s Nobody, starring Bob Odenkirk, would not exist without the prior franchises. The plot lines up, a normal guy who is hiding a dark but talented past played by an unexpected action star. Odenkirk in particular is one of the last people that one would expect to play this role but he really comes through. Unfortunately, the movie takes the John Wick route in terms of low character development but its the central aspect of the movie that makes it all good, the glorious action.
As protagonists get more and more badass, its hard to come up with innovative ways to take bad guys out. From the first real action scene of the movie, we know we’re in for a treat the second that Odenkirk’s Hutch takes the bullets out of his gun so he can savor the beatings. This long fight taking place on a stationary bus ends in Hutch performing a tracheotomy with a fast food straw, something unseen in American theatre. In conjunction with this bus scene, almost all of the film’s action takes place in a unique location. The aforementioned bus, Hutch’s home, his father’s nursing home, and a climax in a metal manufacturing warehouse. This is not unlike The Equalizer, in which the final battle is in a Home Depot type store. The use of new environments in which the characters can be maximally resourceful is a particularly strong ingredient to keeping it fresh.
The backstory with the villain is the same as the above franchises but is no less interesting than usual. Endlessly expendable Russian minions with an unhinged boss makes for maximum action potential, something that director Ilya Naishuller lives up to. Additionally, Naishuller treated audiences to a delightfully surprising action role from Christopher Lloyd and a bottom of the ninth appearance from Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA. In short, while the story won’t end up shocking you very much, there are still plenty of wonderful surprises along the way to keep the whole thing fresh.
While this movie would fare just as well as the current one-off that it is, surprise surprise, a sequel is indicated at the end. While this would normally induce a groan, this admittedly unnecessary sequel certainly has my interest. Sure, it doesn’t have the type of world building that John Wick does to deserve four installments, okay. However, it certainly achieves what The Equalizer does, thus earning another go around. Watch Nobody for yourself and tell me you don’t want to see Saul Goodman whooping ass a second time. To sum everything up, Nobody works, and is a gratifying watch for any action head.