Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
USA/Japan, 2021. 87North, Dentsu, Eighty Two Films, Odenkirk Provissiero Entertainment, Perfect World Pictures. Screenplay by Derek Kolstad. Cinematography by Pawel Pogorzelski. Produced by Braden Aftergood, David Leitch, Kelly McCormick, Bob Odenkirk, Marc Provissiero. Music by David Buckley. Production Design by Roger Fires. Costume Design by Patricia J. Henderson. Film Editing by Evan Schiff, William Yeh.
A minimum of visual style and a lack of narrative ingenuity work in favour instead of against this juicily enjoyable action film, which dives quite gleefully into familiar territory and has a great time doing it. It helps that it stars a very unlikely Bob Odenkirk in the lead role, his appearance as a sort of older, more disappointed brother to Bruce Willis in Die Hard make the revelation of his skills in violence that much more satisfying. He’s living a mind-numbing suburban routine with wife Connie Nielsen in white picket fence bliss, raising two children, heading to work at his brother-in-law’s construction firm and repeating the same formula every day as described in the opening sequence by an aggressive montage. When their home is invaded by prowlers looking for cash, Odenkirk manages to scare them off but stops short of actually harming them even when he has a clear chance to do so, inviting subtle judgment from his family for his failure to fulfill the macho tough guy fantasy that they require of him. This movie might not be the morally dubious classic that Straw Dogs was, but in using the genre as an opportunity to examine and satirize a crisis of masculinity affecting its generation provides a fresher motivation for the events to follow than the usual tropes of the genre, (conservative) anger over private property or hypocritical love of vigilante justice. Odenkirk makes up his mind to go in search of the thieves to get revenge but that doesn’t quite pan out, but on the same night and with his blood already up, he encounters a group of drunken hooligans upon whom he opens multiple cans of very effective whoopass. When it turns out that one of the guys he harmed is the son of the treasurer for the Russian mob (Aleksey Serebryakov), his dreams of escaping the dullness of his daily life come true, and it is not long before a whole host of bad guys come after him and his family, resulting in panic rooms being activated and buildings being torched. Before his current sedentary existence, we learn, our protagonist had another life that trained him for this shitstorm, and it facilitates a fun series of majestic car crashes and grisly hand to hand combats that see him cutting down one bad guy after another. It’s a shame that having someone as formidable as Nielsen involved in the project doesn’t have her character being more involved more than as a sideline observer, but Odenkirk puts across enough of his burned-out, low-key charm to carry the movie easily on his own, enough to make you forget how recently you watched John Wick and not notice just how blandly offensive the Russian stereotypes are. Christopher Lloyd has a terrific supporting role as Odenkirk’s father with a few tricks of his own up his sleeves.