Updated: Jul 10, 2021
An effectively suspenseful thriller is a delicate balancing act. In order to keep things exciting, the editing needs to be tight and efficient, with the story constantly propelling the audience forward in a way that is surprising and maybe a little scary. The audience also has to be able to believe in the threat, as well as want the hero to succeed. The new film Bad Samaritan is successful at a few of these things. It is held back by several moments that ring false, plus an underdeveloped hero. However, it is very well made and boasts an entertainingly over the top performance from the scenery devouring villain.
The bland protagonist is Sean (Robert Sheehan), an aspiring photographer who works as a valet at a fancy restaurant. He and his friend Derek take the cars of their clients to that person’s house, which they know is unoccupied. Once there, they try to steal small things no one will notice are missing. Then they return the car and nobody suspects them. That is until Sean takes the car of rich jerk Cale Erendreich (David Tennant), enters his home and finds a woman chained to a chair. His desire to save her puts him right in the crosshairs of her sadistic captor.
Bad Samaritan (106 minutes without the end credits) has a good, well-structured setup and maintains a fast pace. Fast enough that it may take you a while to realize how ridiculous the whole production is. It turns out there is not much to the movie beyond the intriguing initial idea. So director Dean Devlin and writer Brandon Boyce keep the story moving by just piling one thing on top of another all the way until the end. I was reasonably amused. Do not get me wrong, I knew I was watching silly contrivances. But enjoyable trash is still enjoyable.
The best thing about Bad Samaritan is David Tennant hamming it up as the psychotic Cale. Some of what he does makes no sense (it does not help that he is given very little motivation by the screenplay). Fortunately, he is a skilled enough actor to make things interesting regardless. He plays the character entirely without nuance or subtlety, which is fitting because the movie does not contain any. Tennant has a lot to fight against, most significantly that there is no real explanation for why Cale behaves the way he does. I am not even asking for backstory (there is a tiny bit, just adequate for Bad Samaritan’s purposes). I am only asking for consistency. His methods are all over the place in a way that is hard to take seriously at times.
Bad Samaritan is a dark thriller with a solid premise followed by a whole lot of absurdity. Yet it also sort of works. I would not go so far as to call it good, though I was definitely entertained. For a viewer who wants a tightly plotted, exciting, surprising thriller, well, you can skip this one. But a viewer who likes some straight-faced ridiculousness mixed in with their thrills should check this one out.
3 out of 5
Robert Sheehan as Sean Falco
David Tennant as Cale Erendreich
Kerry Condon as Katie
Carlito Olivero as Derek Sandoval
Jacqueline Byers as Riley Seabrook
Directed by Dean Devlin
Written by Brandon Boyce