Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

"For all that there's some gold within it the real treasure is in playfulness."

Nobody is formulaic, derivative, silly, and quite fun. It could be said to sit in a genre that we'll call "John Wicks" where an eponymous (albeit here anonymous) protagonist becomes a whirling dervish of destruction to avenge some wrong and, potentially, reignite or redirect an actor's career.

Yet that's to undermine something that's simply seeking to amuse. It's got action sequences aplenty, invention in them too, but it's not trying to hold a candle to Wick or dye historic like Atomic Blonde. It actually feels more in the vein of Red or even Falling Down, though with a key element being the distance in a marriage it has echoes of Another Round. This is a middle-aged revenge fantasy, but the revenge is less against unlucky assailants or convenient Russian mobsters than middle-age itself.

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Hutch Mansell is played by Bob Odenkirk, hangdog and world weary. He takes the bus. He jogs. He's an accountant at a non-specific machining firm owned by his father in law, screen legend Michael Ironside. He visits the retirement home where his father stays, also screen legend Christopher Lloyd. His house gets robbed, and, well, for want of another assonant firearm what follows is a comedy of errors and AR-15s.

The instigating robbery and loss of a 'kitty cat bracelet' is tense and discomfiting and disappointing in equal measure. Later revelations with disembodied voices over office radios add depth, but it's in detail that there are real flourishes.

During one confrontation an observant onlooker is motivated to make discretion the better part of valour, and from detail, lockstep by lockstep, real comedy is generated. There's karaoke, kickboxing, crates of cash, and all manner of nonsense. There are shades of Falling Down, Mr & Mrs Smith, and, of course, that John Wick feller.

No surprise on that last, of course, as Derek Kolstad, who writes, is also credited on the five Johns Wick so far announced and I think the spinoff TV show as well. Here the comedy chops are broader, it's more wry than the attempts at snappy banter in Black Widow. The action sequences are entertaining, and brutal. Director Ilya Naishuller's last feature was 2015's entertaining ludicrous first person shooter Hardcore Henry. That ballistically comedic sensibility is still here, I don't think I've ever seen Christopher Lloyd look as gleeful as he does with a shotgun, and Michael Ironside knows how to watch someone take a punch.

The escalating confrontation relies less on deus ex machina than DUI ex-Mercedes, but it'll do. Odenkirk manages to make Hutch sympathetic, not only to audiences but to others. No mean feat given how many hearts he'll leave actually bleeding.

Connie Nielsen, Paisley Cadorath, Gage Munroe are all good as the rest of the Mansell family, Mrs, daughter and her older brother. Swaggering brother-in-law duties are done by Billy MacLellan, well on his way to join others in the cast in science fiction/TV 'That-guy'ness. Actual brother duties are performed by the RZA. He does not here demonstrate his Iron Fists but wields enough firearms that he might hit 36 chambers.

There are some entertaining small roles. JP Manoux doesn't have much to say, indeed at some points can't say anything as 'Pentagon Bob'. Araya Mengesha is scene-stealing as Pavel, a tight fade and a tighter demeanour put him somewhere between Schwarzenegger in Red Heat and Murphy in Another 48 Hours. This might be the first time Western audiences meet Alexey Serebryakov as big bad Yulian but it's a heck of an introduction.

Nobody does have surprises, from a claymore mine used as a napkin ring to a dual-purpose basement that would make both the Mission: Impossible crew and Hannibal Lektor happy. The Mansell family tree and service history explain what's going on, but also make about as much sense as Ben Affleck's The Accountant.

It also plays pretty firmly with existing tropes - framed by an interview with law enforcement officers in one of those metal-tabled rooms with a special corner for Batman to hide in, it unfolds more easily than one of those metal chairs you get in conference rooms of a certain vintage. It alleges shadowy agencies and convoluted criminal conspiracies, it revels in socioeconomic messiness.

It's got a pretty good pinball table in it too, and for all that characters might have balls of steel it pretty reliably bumps along to a satisfying ending. It does light up occasionally, makes good noises, and for all that there's some gold within it the real treasure is in playfulness. It won't, unlike its protagonist, set the world on fire, but it will divert and entertain.

Reviewed on: 17 Jul 2021
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A bystander who intervenes to help a woman being harassed by a group of men becomes the target of a vengeful drug lord.

Director: Ilya Naishuller

Writer: Derek Kolstad

Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Aleksey Serebryakov, Connie Nielsen, Christopher Lloyd, Michael Ironside, Colin Salmon

Year: 2021

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US, Japan


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