No Bad Deed Goes Unpunished:
Whenever we use the term "Cat and Mouse Game," it brings up an image of two forces, duking it out. The power struggle in these movies tends to slide one direction or the other, delicately balanced until something changes at one side rises victorious. Whenever I think of this type of narrative, Breaking Bad Season 4 comes to mind, with the battle of wits that plays out between Walter White and Gus Fring. Throughout that entire season, the two characters continually one-ups the other, as they try to outplay each other. But in real life, the cat is the one in power and they simply toy with the mouse, until they are ready to kill them. Truthfully, as much as I love cats, they are serial killers.
Facts are Facts
Writer: Brandon Boyce
Director: Dean Devlin
Gayly: good suspense and acting
Dreadful: a little long in the tooth; story meanders
Pair With: Don't Breathe
After a brief montage of images featuring a horse being beaten, Bad Samaritan begins with Sean (Robert Sheehan) and his girlfriend Riley (Jacqueline Byers) joshing each other and sexily flirting. Riley is a business major and she wants Sean to succeed, but he's the poor artist, railing against the consumerism. Their relationship felt real and lived-in. Their playfulness brought a smile to my face.
Sean is a photographer who funds his meager existence by valeting with his pal Derek (Carlito Olivero). Well, that's not quite true. They are valet drivers for a fancy Italian restaurant, but what makes them money is that they deviously steal from their patrons. Working as a pair, one of them will search their vehicle's GPS or registration and drive back to the owner's house. They will then steal something that won't be immediately missed or make the robbery look like a break-in. They are really looking for that "perfect score" that will fund their respective futures.
One night, a douchey rich man named Cale (David Tennant) pulls up in a Maserati and Sean uses his GPS to go back to the man's house. He finds a just delivered credit card. Jackpot. And then he finds the man's office, locked with a heavy duty lock. Even more of a jackpot. Inside the very dark office, Sean makes a disturbing discovery: there's a terrified and beaten woman, tied and gagged in a chair. The man is a serial killer. After unsucessfully trying to free her, Sean flees and returns the car. But he can't let things go--
--We interrupt this report to bring you a Robert Sheehan appreciation thread:
Robert Sheehan is, in the words of a friend:
and Renaissance courtier pretty
And it's true. I've loved him since Misfits.
--cough. Sorry. I don't know what came over me. Sean can't let things go and so begins the cat and mouse game. Unfortunately, Sean is pretty much in Cale's world; a world of trustfund money and rich manboy eleganza. And like the real life Cat and Mouse game mentioned above, he's way in over his head.
I enjoyed Bad Samaritan, for the most part. The first half is an intense and suspenseful thriller as we follow both Sean and Cale. But the scales are too much tipped in Cale's favor, as he simply toys with Sean. The last half kind of meanders a bit as Sean's life spirals violently out of control. The third act is a little messy and drawn out and as it rolls to the finish line, it sort of runs out of steam. I was shocked to discover this was the second film of Dean Devlin. You might not know Devlin, but you know his debut feature: the oft-mocked Geostorm. Bad Samaritan is a much better film than that ridiculous spectacle. I can't believe it's from the same director.
In a lot of ways, Bad Samaritan feels like a throwback to the 90s thrillers. Copycat, Unlawful Entry and Kiss the Girls comes to mind. David Tennant's Cale is the 90s style sly serial killer toying with the over-their-heads heroes; the police and FBI are useless; the killer even has a ridiculous reason behind his viciousness. It was written by Brandon Boyce, the writer of Apt Pupil (1998), which, given the thrillers this is reminiscent of is, well, apt.
Even though it drags, I found Bad Samaritan entertaining, mostly due to the performances by David Tennant and (heart eye emoji) Robert Sheehan. It also has the best line of dialogue, near the climax, I've heard in ages that had me clapping and laughing in spite of myself. So, give it a shot. It's not the best thing I've seen this year, but it's a lot of fun.