UK Release Date: 24th August 2018
Runtime: 106 minutes
Director: Dean Devlin
Writer: Brandon Boyce
Starring: Robert Sheehan, David Tennant, Carlito Olivero, Kerry Condon, Jacqueline Byers, Tracey Heggins
Synopsis: Two valets who routinely burgle the houses of well-heeled customers get more than they bargained for when one of their victims turns out to be a serial killer with a kidnapped woman chained in his office.
Dean Devlin is the guy who made Geostorm – one of the worst blockbuster movies of the last few years. When I first saw the trailers for Bad Samaritan, I was blissfully unaware of Devlin’s involvement and, as a result, was quite excited to see former Doctor Who leading man David Tennant going uber-dark and twisted as a cold-blooded killer. The film, I am pleased to say, mostly delivers on that promise and it seems that, with a smaller budget, Devlin is capable of producing something efficiently nasty and sufficiently gripping. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, that’s because it is.
Tennant is Cale Erendreich – a man with a villainous name, villainous clothing and a villainous voice. We meet him as his pristine Maserati – a pretty villainous car – rolls up to restaurant valets Sean (Robert Sheehan) and Derek (Carlito Olivero). They’re both strapped for cash and so essentially use the valet service as a way to use the sat nav memories in customer’s cars to get to their homes and nick stuff, knowing they have a few hours in which the house will be empty. When Sean gets into Erendreich’s house, however, he discovers young woman Katie (Kerry Condon) chained up in his office and an ominous garage murder room full of knives, chainsaws and an angle grinder. It’s like a yuppie version of Leatherface’s lair.
The tension in these scenes ratchets up nicely and Sheehan does perhaps his best work since making his name on Misfits as a bloke who clearly doesn’t enjoy burglary and isn’t very good at it, but sees it as a necessarily evil. When he discovers the young woman, he abandons all hope of a good haul from his victim and instead seeks to inform the authorities. Unfortunately, they aren’t all that inclined to believe the word of a burglar and what follows is a battle of cat and mouse between Erendreich and Sean, who decides to go it alone in order to rescue Katie.
Much of the credit for the fact that Bad Samaritan holds together at all must go to Sheehan and Tennant, who both deliver committed performances. The latter is evidently enjoying the chance to go nasty again after his work as Kilgrave in Jessica Jones and is excellent both in the rude, rich douchebag incarnation of Erendreich and the snarling, unhinged psychopath he becomes as the story moves into its third act. Sheehan, meanwhile, manages to be likeable and sympathetic, despite his status as a career criminal willing to exploit people to win himself a few bucks.
Devlin brings a slick feel to this movie that was entirely absent from Geostorm, which felt like it had been thrown together like a primary school collage as a result of its myriad production and development difficulties. The direction is glossy and keeps the story moving, even as Brandon Boyce’s script moves down weird dead avenues. There’s a period in which it seems as if Erendreich’s actions are going to be underpinned by some sort of twisted moral ideology, but this transpires to amount to nothing more than a laughable flashback involving the death of a horse.
As much as Bad Samaritan is wildly nasty and has a rather hyperactive plot, it is an enjoyable and interesting watch. It’s too over-cranked and mean to work for everybody but, as a strange oddity that people will discover on Netflix in a year or two, it works just about as well as it could have done – at least up until the near-comedic ‘running around swinging spades and bits of wood’ finale. It seems that Dean Devlin is actually a better filmmaker when he’s restricted in his ambition.
Pop or Poop?
There’s just enough life in Bad Samaritan to make it work, even though it seems to have little idea where to pitch its tone. David Tennant makes for a memorable psycho and Robert Sheehan has finally found a movie role that doesn’t make his Misfits success look like a fluke.
Unfortunately, the plot lacks any sort of coherence and the finale is a bit of a mess that culminates in a final shot that doesn’t have the punch it needs.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.