BAD SAMARITAN: Featured Image

In what may be a disturbing commentary on our modern world, movies about brilliant sociopaths are, roughly, a dime a dozen. Entering this crowded marketplace is the slick new BAD SAMARITAN. With so many options to choose from, is this latest “way smart killer thriller” worth your time?

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Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan) is one of those suffering artist types. He’d rather do just about anything than get paid by a corporation for his photography. For now, that means being a valet and using that job to engage in petty theft. You know, because nothing is nobler than fencing a suburban family’s stolen goods. Sure beats selling out, am I right?

With his friend Derek Sandoval (Carlito Olivero), they utilize customer cars as a way into the owner’s home. There they grab small items unlikely to be noticed as missing by homeowners. The duo fences them for cash long before their victims can even suspect they may have been robbed. For Derek, it’s a way to make some extra money. For Sean, it means being able to show his girlfriend Riley Seabrook (Jacqueline Byers) he can be an uncompromising artist and still pay for things.

One night Sean and Derek seemingly stumble on their retirement score thanks to very rich prick Cale Erendreich (David Tennant). Falco, however, discovers a far worse crime. Erendreich seems like the type of near-billionaire that appreciates more than just life’s finer things. He also loves to torture people, including a woman he currently has bound in his office.

When Sean’s initial attempts to save the woman fail, he finds himself in a precarious situation. Cale has decided he needs to “correct” Falco by destroying the burglar’s life.

Robert Sheehan has that soulful gaze down pat in BAD SAMARITAN. (Courtesy of Electric Entertainment)

The Writing

I’ll give BAD SAMARITAN this, the idea of a small time thief being the only one who can stop a serial killer no one seems to know about is intriguing. However, the script by Brandon Boyce — who previously penned the very disturbing APT PUPIL — is mostly just idea. It may not be wholly predictable but it is not exactly surprising either. The dialogue does not sing. The conceived set pieces are rarely unusual.

The one aspect of note is that Erendreich considers himself a trainer, not a killer. While he is probably just fooling himself, he insists his goal is to break and educate his hostages. The fact that he had to kill them is reflective of their failures, not his bloodlust.

Some of that uniqueness is blunted, unfortunately, by BAD SAMARITAN being the second movie in about four months to tie horse rearing to sociopathy after the far less traditional THOROUGHBREDS.

Overall, it is a workman-like affair. It is the kind of script that can go either way depending on how the actors and director bring it to the screen.

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Casting the Leads of BAD SAMARITAN

It seems likely that most visitors to this site would be interested in this movie because of one David Tennant. I will say this for Tennant, he certainly makes some interesting choices.

Tennant gives Cale a high creep value from the jump, presenting himself as a gaunt, hollow-cheeked figure. We know immediately he is more than a raging ass. At times, he looks almost like a marionette come to life; his body just has an air of being wrong somehow. The movie wisely juxtaposes that appearance with his destination. By having him show up at an Italian restaurant for a multi-course meal, we are clued into this as an artifice of a man, not the real deal. Even his jerkiness is a play that masks something deeper to the bone.

His physicality, unfortunately, is often undercut by the voice he has selected. Nasally and from no particular US region, the more he speaks, the less serious he seems. This isn’t a “isn’t it ironic that someone who hits like Mike Tyson has a high voice?” It’s a “how do I feel threatened by someone who’s riding the edge of whining the whole time.”

Robert Sheehan as “the thief trying to make good” is appealing enough. His variety warm, non-threatening charisma shows how he could take in those around him. Sheehan also accomplishes showing Sean’s rising panic, and the ways it does and does not undermine his desire to do right. In particular, he has an expressive face, letting every moment of fear and frustration flit across it. Unfortunately, though, he never really makes a believable working class “doing the wrong thing” hero to Tennant’s upper class “I’m a respectable madman” villain. It is an incomplete performance.

Kerry Condon nurses quite the bruise in a scene from BAD SAMARITAN (Courtesy of Electric Entertainment)

Casting the Rest of the BAD SAMARITAN Call Sheet

As heiress turned hostage, Katie (Kerry Condon) has little to do but plead and cry for most of the movie. However, during the climax, she proves to have a wicked sense of humor that she aims at our bumbling protagonist and grandiose villain alike. The best, and really only, laughs come in the final stretch and are all hers. It makes you wonder how more compelling she could have been if she was given a bit more space to show her personality throughout.

As noted above, Jacqueline Byers has a fun chemistry with Sheehan. It gives a bright bouncy tone to the movie’s start. Unfortunately, after their first scene together, she largely goes away except as a pawn of Cale’s ongoing vendetta.

The rest of the supporting players are fine but not particularly noteworthy.

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Dean Devlin feels like an odd choice for this film. Long connected to bombastic disaster titles — although more as a producer than a director — BAD SAMARITAN is far smaller than his directorial debut, the ridiculous GEOSTORM. As such, I was anticipating a loud, wild ride that buried every moment at 11.

To his credit, Devlin recognizes BAD SAMARITAN really isn’t that kind of film. He keeps the action low to the ground and intimate. With the exception of Tennant and his wildly upper-class suburban lair, nothing feels over the top.

It has a slick style and pacing as well. However, it is still generic in its slickness.

And therein lies the rub. BAD SAMARITAN is in no danger of being a good movie at any point. It is fairly empty of true tension. Cale is competent enough to seem unlikely but never competent enough to reach dizzying heights. He is neither as charismatic scary as the likes of Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter nor as charismatic fun as Kathleen Turner’s Beverly Sutphin.

Similarly, Devlin could have gone big and bombastic. This would not have lead to a good film but it would have been noteworthy and a bit more of a thrill ride. Pushing all the knobs to maximum could have launched this into a sort of over the top cult status. Imagine, say, this script with the feel of MOM AND DAD.

David Tennant thinks he can beat his captive in a staring contest in a scene from BAD SAMARITAN. (Courtesy of Electric Entertainment)

Striking the Set

BAD SAMARITAN flirts with the hallowed status of a good-bad movie but never realizes that potential. Instead, it is more like Cale Erendreich’s Maserati. A machine built for screaming speed and excitement that only ever just cruises through the suburbs at half speed.

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