New Cinema Releases: Nobody & In the Earth
Dadsploitation -as it’s affectionately known- has been an enduring subgenre over the last few years, having exploded into popularity with 2008’s Taken. Coming in the wake of Bourne and Craig’s Bond, this type of dirty little actioner is distinguished from the usual man-on-a-mission thriller by the presence of a middle-aged actor known more for serious dramatic work rather than popcorn entertainment. Liam Neeson now, might induce a few groans and eye-rolls when a trailer for something like The Commuter or The Marksman appears, but back in 2008, it was interesting to see Neeson -known primarily for his work in Micheal Collins and Schindler’s List- running around Paris punching European criminals in the neck.
Other distinguished actors have since had a stab following the first Taken, with varying degrees of success. Apart from the original Taken, very few are any good, and plenty of them are awful. On the better end of dadsploitation, you’ve got Denzel Washington in The Equalizer, and Mel Gibson in Blood Father. On the dreadful end you have Sean Penn in The Gunman, and Kevin Costner in 3 Days to Kill, and Criminal.
So, we’ve seen Liam Neeson, Sean Penn, Kevin Costner, and Denzel Washington wheeze and stoop their way through quick-cut action scenes. Now it’s Bob Odenkirk of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fame to give it a go. So, how does he do, and more importantly, how well does the film around him hold up? Very well, very well indeed!
It does everything an action film should correctly, and with on-the-nose efficiency. There are very well-delivered and well-constructed moments of humour that suit Bob Odenkirk’s reserved approach to the role of Hutch. Odenkirk carries out the action scenes with realistic energy and brutality. Unlike the choppy, jumpy edits that plague the Taken films to make their star seem less decrepit, the violence is shot primarily with mid-shots and lingers on multiple blows before cutting away. It’s also nice to see ’80s cinema veterans Michael Ironside and Christoper Lloyd onscreen again, even if they are cast in relatively minor roles.
Is Nobody anything special? Perhaps not, many of the scenes you could find in any of the Death Wish sequels and The Equalizer reboot, but does it stand out in a largely bland and risible subgenre? Certainly, and it succeeds as a very strong, witty, and entertaining action film that is aware of what it’s role is, and delivers all it’s required to plus a little extra with thrilling brilliance.
IN THE EARTH:
In the midst of an all too-familiar pandemic-stricken world, Ben Wheatley sends Joel Fry of Plebs, and Ellora Torcia off on a trip into the woods where they encounter a feral, and extremely hairy Reece Shearsmith. This leads to a strange, sort-of-eerie series of events resulting from a scientist’s attempt to communicate with nature or… something. It wasn’t massively clear, as one can now expect from Wheatley, along with wince-inducing moments of gore. His brand of horror has always had an ambiguous touch, even something as straightforward as Kill List had a bit of an odd ending. A Field in England is perhaps the film that best captures that sense of palpable evil within the earth which this film is aiming for. As much as I enjoyed watching it, and it really does keep you interested, I can’t help feeling a little deflated by the disorientating kaleidoscope ending. There seemed neither a thematic nor narrative payoff for its audience after masterfully luring us in.
For me, it did go in exactly the kind of direction I expected it to. It was shot beautifully, the acting was solid from everyone involved, and it managed just about to convey complex ideas about connecting with the earth, somehow managing to wedge in some stuff about an ancient pagan god, which may or may not be the root of all the strangeness. It finishes where it needs to, in terms of length at least. It left me thinking when I left the cinema, which the best horror films should, but I don’t feel like I’ve had enough to go away with to reach my own conclusions. This will certainly appeal more if you’re familiar with Wheatley’s other country-based horror outings, but avoid if you’re looking for something more direct in its attempt to scare.
By Cal Reid