Directed By: Barry Odom
Starring: Nick Bolton, Albert Okwuegbunam, Kelly Bryant, Cale Garrett
Synopsis: After having their season left for dead, the Tigers of Missouri take out their rage on the next team in their way. That’s it — that’s the plot!
It hasn’t been that long, but it certainly feels like years since Mizzou Football had a hit on its hands.
Sure, fans remember the excitement of 2007 and 2013, but those were of another era. Did they change the trajectory of the program forever? Of course. But college football is a, “What have you don't for me lately?” business, and the days of blockbuster football in Columbia — at least in the eyes of cynics — seemed gone forever.
At least, that was before John Nick. Admittedly, it’s kind of a weird premise: Little known linebacker Nick Bolton — spoken highly of in the shadows, but rarely seen in public — breaks out after the cowboys of Wyoming ruin his team’s offseason party, leading a rampage over the Mountaineers of West Virginia. You may even find it a little unbelievable, especially after Missouri was assaulted in the Rockies. But once the fun gets going, it’s almost impossible to resist.
The main point of attraction here is simple: it is brutal to the point of thrilling. Bolton leads the charge with a few big hits and plays, but everyone gets in on the beatdown. Cale Garrett lays the boom. Kelly Bryant evades defenders like a shadowy assassin and Albert Okwuegbunam runs through defenders faster than you can say, “Baba Yaga.” When you get to the point of thinking, “Should I be enjoying this? It’s a bit sadistic,” the Tigers do something even cooler and more badass than the minute before. From early on, you know that there’s no beating the Tigers in this one.
It’s even more satisfying when you think of where the Tigers are coming from. After the disappointment of last week, it’s almost overwhelming to see a set of performances so well put together. Everything is well choreographed, from the Tucker McCann 40+ yard sniping to the domination of the Tiger defensive line bowling over their Mountaineer foes. The direction (inconsistent at times in Barry Odom’s young career at the helm) is nearly airtight, a welcome relief from the sometimes sloppy efforts in his past. There are a few loose ends that could’ve been cleaned up — a few unforced errors give the antagonists more screen time than necessary — but with a final product so positive, the issues seem minor.
Of course, John Nick won’t win over everyone. The domination is so complete in all phases of the game that cynics will complain about the lack of stakes. They may be right on some level. If we know from the opening scenes how this story will play out, is it worth getting invested? Shouldn’t we wait to make the final judgement until a more formidable foe comes along? There may be something to that, but it misses one of the main points of a football game — to enjoy yourself!
So, while John Nick’s pleasures may be simple, they are a welcome relief from the disappointments of the Tigers’ fateful trip to the Wild Wild West. And while it’s hard to read too much into it, it’s still a visceral thrill ride that tickles the baser parts of our football-loving brains. Combined with football that is both bruising, dominant and beautiful, there’s no doubt that Barry Odom’s latest feature is a no-doubt hit.