‘Bad Samaritan’: Film Review
No good deed, or viewer, goes unpunished in Dean Devlin’s ridiculous serial killer thriller.
How, indeed, do you follow up Geostorm? If you’re Dean Devlin, you take one of the lesser-known castmembers of that disastrous 2017 disaster movie (from which Devlin was removed during reshoots), abscond to Portland, Oregon — “my home away from home” per his press notes director’s statement — with a dreckish screenplay by Brandon Boyce (Apt Pupil) and make a low-budget serial killer thriller so ludicrous and imbecilic that it’s almost charming. Almost.
Irish actor Robert Sheehan plays Sean Falco, a restaurant valet to most people’s eyes and a petty thief in actuality. Whenever a clearly well-to-do customer drives up, he and his professional partner, Derek Sandoval (Carlito Olivero), put on their small-time-crooks caps. One of them stands guard as their target eats dinner while the other hops in the patron’s vehicle, locates their home address through GPS, and robs the abode of easy-to-carry valuables.
It’s a living! But when douchenozzle extraordinaire Cale Erendreich (David Tennant) revs up in a flashy Maserati, Sean and Derek see a potentially more lucrative gig. Perhaps one to retire on. Small hitch: As Sean is searching Cale’s house, he discovers a woman, Katie (Kerry Condon), bound, gagged and bloodied. Suddenly, this bush-league criminal’s moral code kicks in; of course an abducted person's life is worth more than stolen gold knick-knacks. Yet getting her free proves to be tougher than it seems, especially after Cale discovers that Sean is onto his cutthroat activities, of which this is not an isolated case.
Obstacles are legion, be it the high-tech surveillance in Cale’s building that’s controlled by remote app, or the fact that Sean’s lawless pursuits severely lessen his credibility with local authorities. But the biggest obstruction might be Cale himself with his bug-eyed stare of death, his uncanny ability to be seemingly everywhere at once and his infantile psycho-tantrums, which are rooted (as a hilarious, twice-repeated flashback reveals) in a childhood trauma involving an untamed horse.
Tennant is awful, by which I mean wonderful, by which I mean truly terrible, yet in a legitimately magnificent way … I think. This is a you-can’t-kill-THAT-performance! par excellence, beginning at peak nutball and staying breathlessly atop the trash heap. There’s a scene in which Cale sneaks into Sean’s apartment while he’s showering and aims a gun at his unaware prey. Tennant is all skulky glower — he could be Hannibal Lecter’s distant cousin — until he suddenly defuses the tension by emphatically not shooting his weapon. “Poom!” he says, mock-firing a bullet while dismissively arcing his arm like a snooty girl in ballet class. He can’t take any of this seriously, and he’s having a ball of a time doing it.
There are worse things than watching a former Doctor Who slumming it with such relish. (At his shoutiest, Tennant seems like he’s been possessed by that long-running sci-fi series’ maniacal big bad, Davros.) The rest of the cast can barely keep up with his insanity, though that doesn’t prevent Sheehan from turning on the little-hipster-lost charm, or Condon from valiantly attempting to lend shades to her woman in perpetual peril. Sadly, none of the performers’ efforts put over the cliched machinations in Boyce’s screenplay, the stupidest of which might be nicknamed “Chekhov’s bolt cutter.”
Should you find yourself in front of Bad Samaritan (and that could only ever be by force or out of sheer masochism), just sit back and revel in the verdant Portland scenery or marvel at the ill-fitting orchestral score by Joseph Loduca, who apparently thinks he’s composing for a Devlin super-production past like Stargate or Independence Day — both lost Da Vincis in comparison to this dross. Get to the end and you might even find yourself pining for Godzilla ’98. Perish that thought.
Production company-distributor: Electric Entertainment
Cast: David Tennant, Robert Sheehan, Carlito Olivero, Kerry Condon, Jacqueline Byers
Director: Dean Devlin
Writer: Brandon Boyce
Producers: Dean Devlin, Rachel Olschan-Wilson, Marc Roskin
Executive producers: Brandon Lambdin, Carsten H.W. Lorenz
Director of photography: David Connell
Editor: Brian Gonosey
Music: Joseph Loduca
Rated R, 107 minutes