Bob Odenkirk is one of the all-time great yellers. Go back and watch his marvelous comedy sketch series Mr. Show from 25 years ago if you don’t believe it. When Gene Hackman hollers, it can be terrifying. With Odenkirk, it’s unexpected and hilarious. The idea of casting him in a John Wick type of role (from the writer of the franchise no less) screams for more than what’s presented onscreen in the very brief runtime of Nobody. Post watch, I couldn’t escape the idea that a lot of cool stuff might happen following the events of what I’d just witnessed. What’s presented is effective in spurts and occasionally dull and repetitive in chunks.
Dull and repetitive aptly describes Hutch’s existence as the opening montage shows. He works a boring job. His marriage to Becca (Connie Nielsen) is devoid of any spark. Like clockwork, he forgets to take out the garbage. The middle class tedium is disrupted by a home burglary where Hutch catches the intruders redhanded but decides against using his golf clubs to take them down. From the police to his spouse to his kids, he’s seen as a weakling. However, when he discovers his little girl’s kitty cat bracelet was lifted, his true identity surfaces.
Hutch was once an “auditor” for the government. Not the numbers crunching kind. More of the bone crunching variety. He’s a former assassin that comes from a line of them including dad (Christopher Lloyd). RZA is also part of the clan (he’s heard more than seen because he’s in hiding). No longer content to hide his own particular set of skills after the bracelet heist, Hutch sets out to find the thieves and rough up anyone else who stands in the way.
One of the audited victims turns out to be the brother of a Russian mobster (Aleksei Serebryakov) who moonlights as an aspiring nightclub singer. With Hutch on his wanted list, the Wick-ish violence commences. If this all sounds like a tremendous amount of strange fun, it should. Doc Brown as an octogenarian renegade? Check. Our Breaking Bad standout breaking skulls? Check.
Sometimes it is. When Hutch first lets down his guard on a bus, it’s a violent delight. It never really tops that sequence that arrives early. Derek Kolstad (who wrote all three Wick flicks) is behind this (along with Hardcore Henry director Ilya Naishuller). The screenplay hints at our lead’s backstory. It gives us reason to believe Odenkirk and Lloyd and RZA have been on some wild adventures. The world building that’s become such an integral part of Keanu Reeves and his headshots isn’t present in Nobody. This is far more contained and that applies to Odenkirk’s performance. He’s a terrific comedic presence and, as mentioned, a glorious wailer. Those skills aren’t at the forefront in this though he commendably looks comfortable offing Euro baddies. I just didn’t find the concept sizzling enough to sustain itself before it kinda burnt out.
Michael Sarnoski’s Pig is best savored when not knowing what course it will take next. This is more of a character study with Nicolas Cage playing a fascinating one. It’s a reminder of how special he can be when the recipe is done right.
Cage’s Rob lives off the grid in the Oregon wilderness with his trusty truffle pig. When that beloved companion is taken from him, the unkept and determined recluse makes it his mission to bring home the bacon. By his side is Amir (Alex Wolff), a supplier to high-end Portland restaurants who is seemingly Rob’s only non-swine contact. He has a strained association with his rich father (Adam Arkin), who pulls a lot of strings in this unique world of Pacific Northwest based foodies.
I wouldn’t blame you for assuming that Cage goes all John Wick in his quest. That’s only one area where the screenplay (written by the director) leaves you pleasantly surprised. Our lead has given us gobs of overly hammy acting outbursts and the one named Pig lets him do the opposite. This is a mostly quiet and even subtle performance from Cage.
This picture is about past and current losses and how Rob and Amir deal with them. It’s about relationships that cannot be rekindled, but how the memories of them could help heal. The script also amusingly plays around with the self-importance of its characters. This applies to chefs preparing tiny and pricey meals when they’d rather be cooking something else. There’s also Amir’s incessant classical music listening with a voiceover telling him how special it is.
We also see glimpses of an underground lair of culinary employees who seem to adhere to a code known only to them. This is a strange universe which might be at home in a John Wick flick if explored further. To borrow another Keanu Reeves reference, it’s also one in which Rob used to be its Neo. All of this comes together due to that sow swipe, but Pig has more on its mind thematically than revenge. This dish serves up consistently unexpected rewards.
After experiencing the typical COVID-19 related delays that have greeted nearly all movies in the past year, Universal Pictures releases the revenge thriller Nobody next weekend. It comes from Hardcore Henry director Ilya Naishuller with a screenplay by Derek Kolstad (behind the scripts of the John Wick franchise). Bob Odenkirk of Better Call Saul fame stars as a mild mannered family man who decides to let his Death Wish freak flag fly. The supporting cast includes Connie Nielsen, RZA, and Christopher Lloyd.
Originally scheduled for a late summer 2020 premiere, Nobody has experienced four date changes since before settling on its late March bow. Planned for a rollout on 2400 screens, the pic could appeal to fans of Odenkirk’s popular series and action fans in general. There are still obvious challenges with theaters being at various capacity levels, but this could manage a haul between $6-9 million in my view. I’ll go in the middle of that range.
JohnWick: Chapter3 – Parabellum brings us back into the franchise where the forecast is usually stylishly rainy and dripping with violence. There’s a 100% chance of Keanu Reeves finding creative ways to kill people. Our third iteration does what you expect from a sequel. It increases the action so Mr. Wick fights more. His poor dog met an unfortunate end in Chapter 1 that kicked all of this off. In Parabellum, dogs don’t die. They fight too.
Just as part 2 picked up immediately after its predecessor, this does as well. As you’ll recall, our title character has been excommunicated by the High Table, the organization that governs the unlimited supply of assassins that populate New York City and beyond. He’s a marked man with a $14 million bounty on his head and a dwindling supply of markers causing people to help him. Those individuals include Oscar winning women like Halle Berry and Anjelica Huston.
Wick can no longer have a safe space in the Continental Hotel, managed by Winston (Ian McShane) and his trusty concierge (Lance Reddick). That place provided many highlights in the first two pictures, but our man branches out here. After an excursion to Rome in #2, Wick’s passport gets him to Casablanca here. That’s where he teams with Berry and does a Clark Griswold style desert journey that does give him a respite from the cool looking rain.
Calling the shots is the Adjudicator (an effective Asia Kate Dillon). She’s in charge of punishing the folks who’ve helped Wick out in the past. This includes Winston and the returning Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne, still having a ball). Our head henchman who wants the collect the Wick murder money is Zero (Mark Dacascos) and his character is quite fun. He may have a task to complete, but he’s also a total fanboy of the legend he’s hunting. Their interplay is an added bonus.
Parabellum is ultimately about how well the action scenes work. Director Chad Stahelski and Reeves once again dig deep into their bag of martial arts inspired tricks. And a decent sized portion of the fight sequences are downright thrilling. Perhaps this series will eventually run of gas and the choreography of Reeves in sadistic motion delivering headshots won’t be as satisfying. Not yet.
Blogger’s Note (07/31): My estimate has dropped from $82.6 million to $72.6 million
Two of the most popular characters from the venerable FastandFurious franchise get their own spin-off (the first of the long running series) with Hobbs&Shaw next weekend. The action extravaganza comes with a reported $200 million budget and is headlined by the title characters respectively portrayed by Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. David Leitch (co-director of JohnWick and sole director of AtomicBlonde and Deadpool2) is behind the camera. Costars include Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, and Helen Mirren (reprising her maternal role from 2017’s last entry TheFateoftheFurious).
Despite the absence of Vin Diesel and other actors associated with the franchise that started 18 years ago, Hobbs&Shaw is likely to perform similarly to other pics in the canon. The largest opening was accomplished in 2015 with Furious7 with a gross of $147 million. Tragically, part of the reason its start was significantly more than the others was due to the untimely death of Paul Walker and that picture representing his swan song. Follow-up FateoftheFurious two years later landed the second highest start of the eight features at $98 million.
This might fall a bit under those gaudy numbers and I think low to mid 80s is most feasible. That would put it in line or a just bit below the $86 million accomplished by FastFive in 2011.
Hobbs&Shaw opening weekend prediction: $72.6 million
Blogger’s Note (05/15): My estimate has risen from $37.8 million to $45.8 million
Keanu Reeves is back in theaters next weekend as America’s favorite dog loving hitman when JohnWick: Chapter3 – Parabellum debuts. The action thriller hopes to build upon the momentum of 2017’s highly successful sequel. Chad Stahelski returns as director with familiar series faces including Laurence Fishburne, Lance Reddick, Ian McShane, and John Leguizamo. New stars in our third edition include Halle Berry, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, and Anjelica Huston.
Mr. Reeves found himself in an unexpected new franchise five years ago when JohnWick opened to $14 million with a $43 million overall domestic gross. While that might not seem like enough to automatically warrant a follow-up, the pic achieved critical kudos and cult status when it arrived on demand. Three years later, Chapter2 made $30 million for its start and $92 million total.
Parabellum has a solid shot at topping the opening weekend of its predecessor, which also garnered glowing reviews. I’ll say mid to high 30s is where this ends up.
JohnWick: Chapter3 – Parabellum opening weekend prediction: $45.8 million
Keanu Reeves returns to science fiction territory next weekend with the release of Replicas. The thriller casts him as a neuroscientist who clones his family after they’re killed in an auto accident. Costars include Alice Eve, Thomas Middleditch, and John Ortiz. Jeffrey Nachmanoff, best known as the screenwriter for TheDayAfterTomorrow, directs.
While its lead has certainly had success in the genre (TheMatrix), it hasn’t always been that way (JohnnyMnemonic anyone?). Reeves should have a hit at the box office this year, but that will come in May with JohnWick: Parabellum. This effort appears to be getting the unceremonious January dump.
I’ll say Replicas gets low single digits and disappears quickly.
AtomicBlonde is set in 1989 and that feels appropriate because it’s a gleefully rated R entry in an action genre that cranked out a lot more of those 30 years ago. It’s unapologetically violent, sexy, and stylish with a pulsating late 80s soundtrack booming all throughout (almost all throughout). It’s additionally uneven at times and confusing, but I didn’t care much because the good outweighs the bad and the bad people look good doing their thing.
David Leitch co-directed JohnWick and we see those kind of kinetic fight scenes represented here as well. Charlize Theron is Lorraine, an MI6 agent dispatched to Berlin just days before the collapse of the Wall. While the Cold War is drawing to a close, she’s given the mission of retrieving a McGuffin (a wristwatch in this case) that hides the identities of secret agents. She’s also teamed up with Percival (James McAvoy), an outlandish fellow agent who may or may not be on her side. Lorraine also gets friendly (very friendly) with Sofia Boutella’s French agent and the scenes between them aren’t something normally found in summer shoot-em-up material.
The story is told in flashback (not exactly an original touch) as Lorraine recounts her sordid Berlin experience to a CIA man (John Goodman) and other government big wigs. The villains change seemingly minute to minute. It’s a screenplay that never tires of double, triple, and quadruple crosses. Trying to piece it altogether at its conclusion may not be worth your time.
That said, certain sequences and the general cool vibe make it worth your while. It also doesn’t hurt to hear George Michael, A Flock of Seagulls and others singing along during the battle ballets. They’re a trip, but the most effective fight scene is a gloriously choreographed number with no music. It might be the finest action set piece using that distinction since Heat.
Theron has proven herself in several genres, but she sure seems comfortable in this one. McAvoy is having a blast as well. AtomicBlonde is shameless in a way that R rated action pics should be when they’re done well enough. And that alone sets it apart in the summer season.
Blogger’s Note (07/23): I am revising my estimate down from my original projection to a high teens debut.
Charlize Theron is in her second high-profile action flick of 2017 as Atomic Blonde hits theaters next weekend. The Oscar winner plays an MI6 agent teamed up with James McAvoy. The spy thriller costars John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, and Toby Jones and is directed by John Wick‘s David Leitch.
Blonde premiered this spring at the South by Southwest Festival to solid word-of-mouth and reviews have been mostly pleasing as it stands at 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. Theron appeared in this spring’s The Fate of the Furious and McAvoy is fresh off his blockbuster starring role in Split.
Shot for a meager $30 million, the pic should have no trouble being a profitable venture for its studio. It could reach close to its budget in the first weekend, though I’ll estimate it falls a bit under that in the mid 20s. That may mean a debut in third place behind The Emoji Movie and the second weekend of Dunkirk, depending on how that opens on Friday.
Atomic Blonde opening weekend prediction: $18.6 million
Unlike its surprise hit predecessor, no animals are harmed in the duration of John Wick: Chapter 2. However, dozens and dozens of other miscellaneous henchmen are. Especially their heads, which is a specialty of our title character to turn them into squib fodder.
2014’s John Wick gave our retired assassin (Keanu Reeves) a decent reason to use his killing skills. His dying wife gave him a dog as a gift and bad guys disposed of it (they also stole his sweet ride). This led to a shoot-em-up extravaganza that served as a comeback role for Reeves and one of the more distinctive action titles in a while. Directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch fashioned an ultra stylish, ultra violent, and occasionally ultra inventive experience. The first Wick burned with an intense, brooding and often humorous showcase for its star. Yet it also began building a world gleefully not grounded anywhere in reality that let the creative juices of screenwriter Derek Kolstad run free. This was especially evident in scenes at The Continental Hotel in New York City, a fancy establishment reserved for nefarious types who make their living from offing others.
It was time spent at that hotel that gave John Wick an air of something new and creative and it turns out there’s a Continental in Rome as well. That’s where the majority of the carnage here takes place. The sequel picks up right after the events of the original as Wick wraps up his business from the previous outing. He’s ready to go back to retirement with his new unnamed canine companion when an Italian baddie (Riccardo Scamarcio) visits his home. It turns out Wick made a deal with him some time ago to accept any job with no questions asked. Our villain’s task is to kill his sister so he can elevate his crime boss status and that brings Wick to Rome with an arsenal.
What follows is a lot of what we saw in the original – grandly choreographed sequences in which Wick uses his talents. This could run the risk of becoming redundant. There’s only so many ways of killing villains, but I’ll be damned if Wick doesn’t find some fascinating ways to do it. Still, it’s the little touches that make chapters 1 and 2 special from time to time.
For instance, I love the idea of an old school telephone company setting where the women working in the office look like goth versions of tellers from the 1950s. Their job is to pass along information when a hit is ordered (of which John is certainly subject to). I found myself interested in all the rules that the film’s enormous supply of assassins must abide by and the hints of larger syndicates. Some of those new professionals include Common (whose fights scenes with Wick are a highlight) and Ruby Rose as a mute vixen who hurls insults through sign language. Laurence Fishburne pops up as an underground (literally) crime leader whose group will probably play a larger role in the inevitable sequel.
While Wick’s motivations in this chapter aren’t quite as rage inducing as his departed pup, Chapter 2 recognizes the unique qualities that put chapter 1 above your typical genre material. Thankfully it keeps it at a level where I’m curious what the next chapter brings beyond the limitless supply of mercenaries whose cranial areas will be irreparably harmed.