Director: Dean Devlin
Cast: Kerry Condon, Robert Sheehan, David Tennant, Carlito Olivero
RunTime: 1 hr 51 mins
Rating: NC16 (Coarse Language And Some Nudity)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 3 May 2018
Synopsis: From the director of Geostorm comes latest thriller BAD SAMARITAN, which tells the story of how two young men (Robert Sheehan and Carlito Olivero), who valet cars at a local restaurant, develop a clever scam to burglarize the houses of customers while they eat. Things go smoothly until one robs the wrong customer and discovers a woman being held captive. Afraid of going to prison, he leaves the woman and returns the car to the restaurant. Filled with guilt, he makes a call to the police, who find nothing when they investigate. Now, the valet must endure the wrath of the kidnapper who seeks revenge on him, all while desperately trying to find and rescue the captive woman he left behind.
Before he parted ways with Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin was Emmerich’s co-author and producer on big-budget blockbusters like ‘Stargate’, ‘Independence Day’ and ‘Godzilla’, and it is no wonder then that Devlin had been entrusted with a budget of similar size for his filmmaking debut last year. On hindsight, Devlin would probably have done better to kickstart his fledging directorial journey with this low-budget high-concept thriller, which though not quite killer material, is frankly a lot more coherent, enjoyable and exciting than ‘Geostorm’ was. Don’t get us wrong – ‘Bad Samaritan’ is as trashy as its title sounds, but it is also trashy fun, which is pretty much all that we had asked for stepping into a movie like this.
In a nutshell, the story revolves around a low-level thief who discovers a woman (Kerry Condon) chained and gagged in a room of the house he has set out to burglarise. The so-called bad Samaritan is Sean (played by Irish actor Robert Sheehan), an amateur photographer by day and valet/ burglar by night. Together with his best friend Derek (Carlito Olivero), the pair have a neat little scam going where they break into the homes of the owners whose cars they are supposed to be parking and steal what they can without being discovered, making sure they get back before their victims finish their dinner at one of Portland’s high-end Italian restaurants. It all goes well until it doesn’t – in this case, when Sean runs into the wealthy jerk Cale (David Tennant), who happens to be a psychopath.
Though he may find himself on the wrong side of the law from time to time, Sean cannot quite muster enough indifference to simply look away from the fact that someone’s life could be in danger. So despite Derek’s pleadings, Sean turns himself in to both the local police and the FBI to lodge separate reports against Cale, thus triggering a series of cat-and-mouse games between Sean and Cale that will have life-threatening, even life-ending implications, for the former. To say more would inevitably ruin the joy of watching the mano-a-mano duke it out – especially as Cale goes from creepy to psychotic to diabolical over the course of the film – but suffice to say that Cale turns the tables on Sean by unravelling not just his life but also the lives of those closest to him.
Twisted as it may sound, it is a lot more interesting watching how Cale screws up Sean’s life than it is to see how Sean try to track down Cale. That in large part has to do with Tennant’s utterly over-the-top performance, relishing the opportunity to sink his teeth into a gloriously unhinged individual whose way of getting over his teenage trauma of failing to break a horse is to do so now with women instead. There is method to Cale’s madness – just watch how he breaks into Sean’s apartment while the latter is showering, aims a gun at Sean but instead of killing him there and then, mock-fires a bullet with a nutty smile – and the former ‘Doctor Who’ actor plays the role with just the right balance of insanity and control.
There is an almost breathless pace at which Devlin unspools the proceedings, although both he and writer Brandon Boyce could have equally contributed to a much tighter film by trimming some unnecessary scenes in the first hour. There is a redundant subplot at the beginning which sees Derek breaking into the house of a perfectly nice married couple with two kids and getting chased around by their guard dog; another couple of scenes with Sean and Derek arguing between themselves whether to go to the police; and yet another involving a local police detective that go on for far too long. Just as a potboiler, the key is to sustain the suspense throughout, and at close to two hours, Devlin’s film does sag from time to time.
Still, this is a surprisingly competent sophomore film from a director who was reportedly removed from reshoots of his very first movie. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, ‘Bad Samaritan’ harks back to the 1990s when mystery thrillers like ‘Basic Instinct’, ‘The Last Seduction’ and ‘Fatal Attraction’ were the rage. Certainly, it has those same lurid qualities, and is itself tense and gripping enough to match the more memorable ones, elevated of course by Tennant’s villainous act. As far as pulpy thrills are concerned, this unassuming thriller will do just fine.
(As long as it's pulpy, lurid fun you're after, this potboiler of a thriller will do just fine)
Review by Gabriel Chong