Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director: Dean Devlin
Screenwriter: Brandon Boyce
Cast: David Tennant, Robert Sheehan, Carlito Olivero
Screened at: Dolby24, NYC, 4/24/18
Opens: May 4, 2018
A traveler is stripped of clothing, beaten, left for dead. A Levite and a priest walk by and ignore the man. A Samaritan (a group from the Levant originating from the Israelites of the ancient Near East) sees the injured man and helps him. Today we consider a good Samaritan to be one who helps a stranger. But what’s a bad Samaritan? We never heard that before. Watching Dean Devlin’s “Bad Samaritan” we realize that such persons may be of flawed character but nonetheless are willing to extend themselves, sometimes at the risk of their own lives, to assist someone in jeopardy.
That’s the theme around which this thriller is based, a movie whose story comes from Brandon Boyce, the scriptwriter of “Apt Pupil’s” (a 16-year-old discovers that a Nazi is living quietly in his neighborhood) and is directed by Dean Devlin, whose “Geostorm” finds two brothers acting to prevent a climate change catastrophe from engulfing the world. Neither Devlin nor Boyce may have the patience to unveil a plot consisting largely of dialogue, and that’s to the good. This time they unfold a white-knuckle thriller with some horror undertones filled with so many fascinating incidents, one building on the other toward an explosive finale. “Bad Samaritan,” then, is the kind of picture that won’t have you looking at your watch for a second. Its villain is as disturbed as Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates in “Psycho” (and in fact the actor bears a resemblance to him) and its hero is the title character, a petty thief who more than redeems himself in tracking down a serial killer in his attempt to save a complete stranger.
The picture starts off with a bang: a short backstory, wherein young Cale (Austin Leo) is whips a horse that has the nerve to resist his efforts at breaking it, then firing a shot–before moving ahead to current-day Portland, Oregon, where Cale Erendreich (David Tennant), a billionaire with a penchant for “breaking” women and a knack for using all the technology that a billionaire can afford, to get revenge on a young, Irish, green card immigrant who could upset plans for his latest victim.
There is no shortage of humorous elements, particularly involving the petty thievery of Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan) and his buddy Derek Sandoval (Carlito Oliver). They work as parking valets outside Nino’s Restaurant with a plan to rob the well-heeled diners. While Derek keeps watch on the tables inside, he transmits the time a prospective patsy will take courses by cell phone to Sean—who is on his way in the patron’s car to the diner’s home, where he lifts items that may not soon be detected as missing. Sean uses the money to finance his relationship with Riley Seabrook (Jacqueline Byers), his girlfriend, and occasionally presents his mom with expensive jewelry.
While robbing the home of billionaire Cale Erendreich (David Tennant)—which he accesses through the GPS by driving the man’s Maserati to the location instead of to Nino’s parking lot– he is faced with an ethical dilemma. Finding a woman chained to a chair with a metal gag on her mouth but unable to release her at that point, he ponders whether to tell the police of his discovery. Revealing that information would result in his own arrest for burglary. Though friend Derek urges him to forget the prisoner, Derek soon comes around to supporting the bad Samaritan.
The plot is filled with so many episodes crammed into a film under two hours that you could get dizzy trying to recall what happens when. Yet the busy-ness of the story makes it a journey into the heart of a movie that keeps it thrilling. You can see why so many actors say they would rather be villains than good guys, since David Tennant has the best lines and loves showing his psychotic side when not dining with his friends at Nino’s. By contrast Sean’s petty thievery gets him into far more trouble than his bad side could justify.
This, then, is a first-rate thriller filmed in lovely Portland and environs that will make your time pass so quickly you’d imagine yourself zipping down Portland city streets in your own blue Maserati.
Rated R. 107 minutes. © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+