Nothing Man is a crime-drama set in a small UK suburb. It tells the story of a community of “street folk,” transients and panhandlers, who start getting terrorized by a group of psychotic thugs. Whether they are gleeful sadists in the Clockwork Orange mold who just enjoy violence or if they have a specific motivation for their attacks is unknown. After Twink (Ric Vince), a kindly older vagrant, is brutally murdered by these goons, it’s up to Noam (Daniel Hall) to put an end to the bloodshed. However, the young amnesiac is plagued by flashes of violence from his past. But with the help of lovelorn Lana (Jennifer Jordan), whom Twink helped, Noam might just succeed.
The structure of Nothing Man moves fluidly between several different modes, including working-class drama and retribution thriller. However, the dominant motifs are those of the neo-noir. While never being expressly explained, the world that is depicted is one familiar to the genre: a fringe community that ends up being a repository for vagabonds and vagrants, criminals on the lam, and society’s rejects. As Twink puts it, “we’re all running for one reason or another.”
“After Twink, a kindly older vagrant, is brutally murdered …it’s up to Noam to put an end to the bloodshed.”
Despite the ubiquity of this world, we do not typically associate the themes of the film with the village greens and blue-collar townships in which the events take place. The moody visual aesthetic of grainy, high contrast photography coupled with a drab green-grey hue has more in common with the early short films of Lynne Ramsay and Andrea Arnold than any hardboiled genre fare. Still, in keeping with the milieu, the imagery evokes the grit and grimness of living at the bottom rung of society’s ladder, a social strata where many of our most classic noir heroes make their bones.
While Nothing Man presents its conflicts as sweeping and profound, at heart, this is a minor scale, locally grown intrigue. For all their brutality, the villains are relatively small potatoes. Noam himself is depicted as a kind of working-class Jason Bourne, a comparison that was all the more striking when Noam and Lana team-up. Like Damon’s Bourne, playing an amnesiac who has PTSD is a tall order; not only is your past lost to you, but your personality is a mystery as well. As a result, the characterization has to be magnetic while also conveying a tabula rasa state of mind.
"…moves fluidly between several different modes..."