Bad Samaritan Review
Sean (Robert Sheehan) is a photographer and car valet with a criminal side business; he and his best friend Derek rob the houses of people as they are eating in the restaurant where they work using that person’s keys to gain entry. One night Sean enters the house of the wealthy Cale Erendreich (David Tennant) and discovers something terrible; a young woman bound in chains and held captive in a room against her will. As Sean tries to do everything he can to free her, so Cale does everything to destroy Sean’s life as cruelly as possible.
Bad Samaritan is Dean Devlin’s second feature film as director, following last year’s Gerard Butler vs The Weather Geostorm. Before this he collaborated with director Roland Emmerich on six of his movies as writer or producer (and one more time as an actor in 1990’s Moon 44). In short, subtlety is not something the man has been familiar with in his career, and there really isn’t much that is subtle about Bad Samaritan. It is very much a straightforward cat and mouse thriller with an everyguy type protagonist caught in the web of a killer who manages to be able to erase all proof of wrongdoing in an unreasonably short amount of time, dismantling his prison room and torture chamber in less time than it would take most of us to assemble an IKEA bookcase, and being prepared for just about every eventuality that our main guy can think of bordering on clairvoyance, all with the ticking timer of a young girl’s life hanging in the balance. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before aside from one or two fun little minor twists, there is a fun subversion of the Chekov’s Gun principle. What makes the film interesting though is the two central performances from Robert Sheehan and David Tennant. Sheehan’s Sean is both hugely flawed and sympathetic; his immediate instinct upon finding the girl held captive is to do what he can to help her, but he gets overwhelmed from realising just how out of his depth he is and makes a run for it, and what follows is him trying to make up for that and do something that will help this girl even if it means consequences for himself. He is the caring and emotional yang to Tennant’s cold and sinister yin and it is that dynamic that makes the movie worth a look. Whilst there are a few moments where Tennant dips just a little bit too far into that unhinged well and his backstory is only really touched upon for shock value and necessity, the movie isn’t interested in bringing something new to the table in terms of the psychology of a killer, but Tennant manages to be truly threatening with his intense gaze and has that compelling onscreen presence which makes the familiar character of the meticulous and neat serial killer at least feel fresh.
The film also looks wonderful with some genuinely beautiful cinematography, particularly the opening montage of Portland and the final act in a snowy forest. The reveal of captured girl hen Sean breaks into the house is also very effective. The soundtrack though well done is a little invasive in a few of the scenes, blasting us with how we should be feeling rather than letting the movie show us. It’s also certainly not a dull movie as it skips along the near two-hour runtime with ease and always holding your attention, so I can definitely give it credit for that.
In terms of plot Bad Samaritan holds nothing special, but there is always entertainment to be had in seeing something familiar done very well and that is what I found here with the two lead actors elevating material that in lesser hands could have been tedious. Worth watching if you enjoy a thriller, but don’t expect anything that will add to the genre.
It might put you off using valet parking though.