By Owen Gleiberman

Before there were superhero films, there were don’t-get-mad-get-even films. You might say that the two genres have nothing to do with each other. But in the early-to-mid-’70s, when the revenge film as we know it was coming into being with “Dirty Harry,” “Walking Tall,” and “Death Wish,” part of the premise of the new pulp righteousness was that a man who seethed softly and carried a big weapon to cleanse the streets of “scum” had the kind of invincibility we now associate with demigods in spandex. The revenge genre, which could also be called the defend-yourself-because-no-one-else-will genre, became a mythology, a fusion of lone-wolf Western nostalgia and right-wing nihilism that any actor with enough muscle mass and the right scowl could plug into. Sly and Arnold, Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal, Bruce Willis — they all, in a way, played variations on the same character, the ruthless bruiser who could never be defeated because he had the wrath of nobility on his side. His squint of cool rage was the only superpower he needed.

Which brings us to Bob Odenkirk. You might say that “Nobody,” in which the wily star of “Better Call Saul” and “Breaking Bad” plays a glum suburban drone who gets in touch with his inner thug-bashing badass, follows every rule of the genre. It’s got a hero who starts off as a workaday family man, with a nice wife (Connie Nielsen) and two nice kids. Then he’s attacked by criminals in his own home. After which he starts to play dirty, give into his death wish, and walk tall.

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