GORE IN THE STORE
Directed by Ilya Naishuller.
Starring Bob Odenkirk, Connie Nilsen, Aleksey Serebryakov.
Action, US, 93 minutes, certificate 15.
Released in the UK in cinemas 9th June by Universal.
As career re-inventions go Bob Odenkirk’s is a prime example. Once best known as a comedian from the cult 90’s US series Mr. Show, his dramatic turn as shady lawyer Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad and then his own spin-off show Better Call Saul showed off a dramatic skillset that took audiences by surprise with his layered performance and character work. Now, Odenkirk’s career takes another left turn as he becomes one of cinemas most unlikely, yet highly lethal action heroes in what is one of the most enjoyable, and bloodiest, films of the year.
Odenkirk plays Hutch Mansell, a quiet husband and father trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of suburban purgatory with a teenage son glued to his mobile and an uncommunicative wife. When an armed robbery takes place in his own house it soon becomes apparent that this meek, mild mannered man may be harbouring something more vicious and dangerous within himself. Driven over the edge by the theft of his young daughter’s kitty bracelet, Hutch soon unleashes an extraordinarily violent side of himself that soon brings him into conflict with a group of very dangerous and heavily armed Russian mobsters. Unfortunately for them the true nature of Hutch’s seemingly uneventful past life as an “auditor” comes roaring back to bite them.
After the POV stylings of HARDCORE HENRY, director Ilya Naishuller also provides further surprises with the assured and stylish control he has of this material. What sounds on paper like another riff on the middle-aged man driven to the edge to protect his family soon proves itself to be something entirely different. Working from a clever script by Derek Kolstad, who after writing JOHN WICK knows a thing or two about men expressing themselves through violent ways, Naishuller displays a distinctive style and sense of humour that usually bypasses these types of films. Hutch’s daily, stifling grind is established in a rhythmic, repetitive style that quickly conveys a large amount of back story for our protagonist and his family while further back story is neatly laid out through the rest of the film as Hutch begins to lash out in a fashion that gets more and more outrageous as the films neat plot unfolds. The choreography of the violence and stunt work is also refreshing; Odenkirk takes as many punches as he dishes out, a fact that his character interestingly seems to relish and actively seek out.
This twisted nature does not come across as macho posturing. The over-the-top nature that runs throughout stops the film wallowing in such a fashion and instead it comes across as a celebration in subverting the genres usual cliches. Odenkirk’s performance and lean appearance help carry this sensibility across. Fans of Mr. Show will already know that he can rage and shout “motherfucker” in spectacular fashion and to see him combine these skills with a frankly insane amount of firepower, knife play and fisticuffs is a sight that no sane cinemagoer could have ever predicted but will delight in witnessing. The rest of the cast also rise to the occasion, particularly Christopher Lloyd as his elderly, quiet father who seems to know what it is within his son that actually makes him tick.
It is a film that delights in surprising its audience and disrupting the stereotypes of action cinema. Yet it easily accomplishes and satisfies the required beats of a classic action film. It entertains and it is inventive with its action, using it to tell the story in exciting and amusing ways that escalate towards an over-the-top climax while clocking in at just over ninety minutes. While it proves Naishuller has what it takes and then some in terms of imagination and skill with his directing, it is for its lead performance that NOBODY will be remembered. Odenkirk’s “hero” will no doubt go down as one of action cinemas most memorable and interesting characters.