A rollicking rampage of wise guys, sassy strippers, hard-boiled detectives and cold-blooded killers, Nobody Move easily adds up to near-perfect pulp fiction. A simple shakedown turns into homicide then escalates as an angry mob boss despatches a contract killer, with Eddie the hapless protagonist eventually being coerced into a multi-million dollar bank heist while trying to save the girl (whose best friend he murdered back at the beginning. Oops). What could possibly go wrong?
Eddie’s story is a freight-train of good intentions which get shunted onto the fast track to hell. He’s not an altogether bad bloke (for a mob enforcer who collects debts with menaces and spends all his spare time in strip joints), but his lazy complicity has led him a long way into iniquity. You don’t end up murdering a couple of swells entirely by accident.
In fact, few of the characters display much in the way of redeeming features. Eddie’s chaotic bank-robbing colleagues – who require a heavy metal soundtrack to make a successful getaway – are disloyal liars. Sadistic crime boss Saul is brutally bad to the bone. Diego the hitman comes with zero conscience, serious firepower and no compunction about killing absolutely, positively every sucker in the room.
Only Dakota – a young woman seeking the truth about her missing friend – and LAPD detective Alison Lockley are unambiguously on the side of the angels. And both of these women aren’t above bending the rules to suit their righteous purposes.
In some ways, the purest character in this entertaining ensemble piece is Rufus, the almost unstoppable former assassin who returns from retirement to avenge his dead brother. Think No Country For Old Men, but minus the nihilistic bitterness – there’s a solid streak of glee running straight through this melange of mischief.
Author Philip Elliott throws absolutely everything into the mix and saturates his snappy dialogue in so many musical and cinematic references that the pages almost shake from the soundtrack pounding. At times Nobody Move reads just like a screenplay and there’s no escaping the comparisons to Tarantino or the Coen brothers.
Mind you, I could’ve done without the long lecture on the plight of Native American young women or the strident outbursts about calculated chauvinism. There’s definitely a place in crime fiction for discussing serious social issues, but these long-winded detours sat uncomfortably alongside the pell-mell pace of the galloping narrative. Combining heartfelt moral commentary with black humour, a rising body count and frantic action is a tricky balancing act: let’s hope Elliott has plenty of opportunity in future to perfect that skill.
A flickering neon nugget of first class neo-noir.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Nobody Move by Phillip Elliott is available at Amazon