'No Good Deed': Film Review

No Good Deed Still - H 2014
Sony Pictures

No Good Deed Still - H 2014

This one certainly doesn't go unpunished, at least for the audience

Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson play a cat and mouse game in this home invasion thriller

Earlier this week, the press screenings of No Good Deed were canceled with a mere 12 hours' notice, the cited reason being that the film contains a “plot twist that we do not want to reveal as it will affect the audience’s experience when they see the film in theaters." So if you do plan on seeing the film, spoiler alert, because the plot twist is…

Just kidding. Actually, the explanation seems a bit disingenuous regarding this formulaic home invasion thriller because the plot twist is no big deal. The more likely reason for the sudden change of heart is that the film isn’t very good, or possibly because its repeated scenes of a strapping man brutally beating various women have an unfortunate resonance in light of a recent well-publicized news story.

Said man is Colin (Idris Elba), whose backstory is helpfully explained in the opening moments via a breathless news reporter’s commentary. A suspected serial killer of five women, he instead wound up in prison for five years on a manslaughter charge after a barroom brawl that resulted in the death of his opponent. Denied parole on the grounds that he’s a “malignant narcissist,” he quickly engineers a breakout while being transferred back to prison. His first stop is the home of his ex-girlfriend (Kate Del Castillo), with the reunion not at all going well for her.

After crashing his car and gashing his head during a violent rainstorm, Colin winds up on the doorstep of Terry (Taraji P. Henson), alone at home with her two young children while her inattentive husband (Henry Simmons) is away on a golfing trip. Although Terry is revealed to be a former prosecuting attorney specializing in cases involving violence toward women, she nonetheless soon agrees to let the wet and bleeding man in. But then again, this is Idris Elba we’re talking about.

Cue the resulting tension, as the initially gentlemanly and considerate Colin begins demonstrating an off-kilter intensity. The arrival of Terry’s best friend and randy neighbor Meg (Leslie Bibb) briefly alleviates the uneasiness, with the trio sitting down to glasses of red wine and sexual tension permeating the atmosphere. But it isn’t long before Colin reveals his true sociopathic colors and all hell breaks loose.

With the film conveniently set on a dark and stormy night, director Sam Miller ups the anxiety quotient with such fake scares as car alarms repeatedly going off and a tree branch suddenly breaking a window. More interestingly, the obvious sexual attraction between Colin and Terry is accentuated when he forces her into the shower with him, although she remains fully clothed while he casually gets naked.

Aimee Lagos’ screenplay is otherwise devoid of interesting elements with its endless scenes of Terry turning the tables on her tormentor and inflicting physical punishments on him before he quickly recovers and gains control. While Henson is obviously in prime physical shape, the sight of her repeatedly getting the jump on the strapping Elba becomes increasingly ridiculous, especially since his character’s formidableness has been established from the beginning.

Elba, who recruited his former Luther director Miller into the project, gives the film more dignity than it deserves, and Henson delivers a performance of complex emotional shadings. But their fine work is utterly wasted in this B-movie exploitation thriller that would barely make for passable viewing on late-night cable television.  

Production: Will Packer Productions
Cast: Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson, Leslie Bibb, Kate Del Castillo, Henry Simmons
Director: Sam Miller
Screenwriter: Aimee Lagos
Producers: Will Packer, Lee Clay
Executive producers: Aimee Lagos, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Lindsay Williams, Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson, Rob Hardy, Glenn Gainor
Director of photography: Michael Barrett
Production designer: Chris Cornwell
Editors: Jim Page, Randy Bricker
Costume designer: Keith G. Lewis
Composer: Paul Haslinger

Rated PG-13, 84 min.