The most difficult movies to write about, contrary to popular opinion, aren’t the ones that make you mad or drive you crazy with boredom. They’re those strange examples that make barely any impact whatsoever. The kind that elicit a shrug, rather than a smile, a shriek (in the case of decent horror movies) instead of further thought and discussion. Unfortunately, Bad Samaritan falls under that heading.
Bad Samaritan comes to us courtesy of Dean Devlin, who last year offered up a movie entitled Geostorm that did not feature a geostorm. He’s roped in Robert Sheehan, one of the stars of that dull, uneventful event movie, for this, meaning that even when the flick goes completely off the rails and stops obeying its own ridiculous internal logic, there’s still a good actor onscreen to focus your attention on.
Sheehan is Sean, an Irishman with an Irish name and an Irish accent whose mother is most definitely not Irish (something very few people will have an issue with, but her fiddledy-dee-dee twang really grated on me — just hire an Irish person or make him American, it’s simple). He drives around and traditional celtic music swells on the soundtrack. There’s a shamrock on the sign for the mini-business he runs.
One almost expects him to turn a corner and end up on the edge of the cliffs of Moher, or for Clannad to pop out.
Anyway, Sean is a valet, photographer, and career criminal. He and his buddy take wealthy restaurant guests’ cars for a spin while they’re inside eating, rob a few trinkets that hopefully they won’t ever notice are missing, and make it back before the check has arrived. This appears to be quite a fruitful business as Sean is able to gift his mother…a Claddagh ring. Seriously, the Irish cliches are insane, particularly as his Irishness has nothing to do with anything. It’s not like a leprechaun teaches him how to pick locks or something.
One night, while running the usual game, Sean stumbles into the home of obvious psychopath and cut-price Patick Bateman, Cale Erendreich (played by a hammy David Tennant) and finds, via the only good scare in the entire movie, a poor unfortunate lady chained up in his office-cum-torture chamber. Further investigation leads him to a mini Elite Hunting Club setup in the garage.
Before Sean can free this captured woman, however, Cale appears looking for his car and he has to rush back over to ensure suspicions aren’t aroused. The young man is then wracked with guilt over leaving an innocent person to die while Cale, who has easily figured things out in the ten seconds he’s been home, is out for revenge.
Bad Samaritan posits itself as a game of cat and mouse between a rich psychopath and a lowly do-gooder, with a splash of home invasion thrown in for good measure. The problem is, it doesn’t spend much time in Cale’s fortress of a house since, once he realises someone is on to him, he moves his captive to another location entirely and destroys all evidence of his misdeeds.
This sudden change is symptomatic of everything that’s wrong with this dull, completely innocuous movie. Tonally all over the place, with a soundtrack that soars and leaps like we’re watching f**king Good Will Hunting, it can’t keep track of what any of its characters are up to, let alone where it’s big mystery is headed.
Motivations defy all logic, Cale appears to have a supervillain’s grasp on everything and everyone in town, so he’s able to ruin Sean’s life in a matter of days, and his plot concerning the captured woman is never clear, or in any way involving. The stakes are seemingly high enough for Sean to risk his life, and the lives of everyone he cares about, yet the woman appears to be in significantly less danger once he gets involved.
The main attraction of this film is watching Sheehan and Tennant, two legitimately great actors, going toe to toe but that doesn’t even happen until the final act and by that stage, any investment in either of their characters has already gone out the window. Particularly considering the thing is just short of two hours long which is, let’s just say, a major gamble here.
To be fair, Sheehan remains committed throughout. It’s just a shame this is his big leading man role, as those who have followed him since Misfits and most recently enjoyed him popping up as an entertaining eccentric in Mute know he’s capable of so much more. Tennant looks like he’d rather be anywhere else, but he goes full Barty Crouch, instead of doing Dr. Who swagger, which is fine.
There’s nothing much to draw you into the story, as the ending is all but confirmed from the moment the flick begins. Devlin, meanwhile, seems to think he’s making an entirely different movie, judging by the bizarre score and jarring tonal shifts. It’s more dull police drama than horror movie and the premise doesn’t land either way.
Bad Samaritan isn’t even really worthy of inclusion in the Bad universe, as many online commentators have joked. It’s not bad, it’s just boring.
Catch Bad Samaritan in theaters nationwide from Friday, May 4 2018
WICKED RATING: 4/10
Director(s): Dean Devlin
Writer(s): Brandon Boyce
Stars: Robert Sheehan, David Tennant, Kerry Condon, Carlito Olivero
Release date: May 4, 2018
Studio/ Production Co: Electric Entertainment
Length: 110 minutes
Subgenre: Home invasion, psychological