Film Review – Bad Samaritan (2018)
Geostorm wasn’t exactly the biggest hit of 2017. In fact, it was actually quite the opposite, and director Dean Devlin took quite a lot of the blame for the issues in the troubled production of the disaster flick. But, like any filmmaker, Dean Devlin keeps chugging along, looking to put the past behind him and deliver a solid film this time around. Luckily for him, Bad Samaritan has its moments, and they may be more than enough to please genre fans everywhere.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Dean Devlin
Written By: Brandon Boyce
Starring: Robert Sheehan, David Tennant, Carlito Olivero, Kerry Condon, Jacqueline Byers, and Lisa Brenner
To fund his passion as an artist, Sean (Sheehan) — a valet for a local restaurant — and his friend (Olivero) have taken to a less than respectable line of work. Namely, they steal from restaurant customers’ homes while they eat their meals. Surprisingly, the scam actually works for quite some time — until Sean robs the wrong person.
While robbing the home of Cale Erendreich (Tennant), Sean discovers a girl being held against her will, strapped to a chair with copious amounts of leather straps.
Afraid to go to jail, Sean calls the police, but they find nothing. And when going into the station and confessing doesn’t work either, Sean has to resort to other means to save the girl — all the while dealing with the wrath of Cale at every turn.
After years of producing major films such as Independence Day, Godzilla, and The Patriot, Dean Devlin decided to direct a big budget film himself, and that film eventually turned into last year’s Geostorm. Devlin had directed other projects before, but Geostorm was easily his biggest endeavor (every other one of his directing credits is either a TV movie or series).
As you probably know by now, Geostorm didn’t exactly pan out with critics or audiences. To make matters worse, some reports estimate that the film lost around $100 million for Warner Bros. Oof.
However, Bad Samaritan is another attempt for Devlin to cut his teeth as a director, and he has a much lower budget to work with this time around. Some directors need budgetary constraints for creativity to blossom, and Devlin might be one of those individuals. After all, the man has been in the industry for decades, and he clearly knows the ropes. Jumping into directing a blockbuster is very difficult without prior experience, so we’ll see how Devlin’s career continues from here.
A Solid Setup Gets Things Going in a Hurry
Bad Samaritan dives into the plot immediately, introducing you to the characters while addressing the central conflict and its genesis.
Calling Bad Samaritan “complex” is a little much, but, this kind of movie is better off with a simple, effective hook. Within the first ten minutes of the film, Bad Samaritan establishes itself with a few likable, flawed characters to carry the narrative and juxtaposes them with a truly vile villain character. With dark imagery and devilishly off-putting circumstances, Sheehan’s character is thrown into a moral dilemma of sorts that colors the rest of the narrative. Once Robert Sheehan’s character steps into David Tennant’s character’s house, the tension is ratcheted almost immediately.
This film understands its central character, building obstacles around his flaws and past mistakes to make his journey to the climax interesting on some level. While our main character isn’t exactly an upstanding citizen in the eyes of law enforcement, he remains a solid driver of the narrative by having an inherent desire to do good. A dark and twisted movie like Bad Samaritan can easily become a downer if you as the viewer don’t have a certain level of investment in the main character. Thankfully, Robert Sheehan and his charming disposition help Bad Samaritan avoid this fate.
David Tennant Powers Bad Samaritan to Pulpy Fun
David Tennant of Doctor Who fame is one of the more underappreciated actors working today. No matter the overall quality of the film itself, David Tennant always comes to play, and he’s at it again as a pretty vile human being in Bad Samaritan.
Tennant is clearly having a blast acting as a mad sociopath with a kinky edge. His heartbeat rarely gets over sixty beats per second, making every single one of his moves look extremely calculated and cold. The film spends a lot of time with Tennant, showing his ticks and general disposition during downtime from his cat and mouse game with Sheehan’ character.
In the best way possible, Tennant is chewing the scenery with gleeful abandon, taking every opportunity to go a little insane or add just enough flair to make the most mundane piece of dialogue moderately interesting. Tennant just knows how to contort his face to get a reaction from the crowd, and he steals the film as a result.
Bad Samaritan Doesn’t Go the Extra Mile
And yet, I couldn’t help but want a little more from Bad Samaritan. The film is worth watching for David Tennant’s performance alone, but he severely outperforms every other element of the film. Every other piece of Bad Samaritan blends in with its grayscale appearance, and it never quite reaches the sadistic edge you want from a film such as this one.
Instead, Bad Samaritan resorts to a lot of the same tropes that you’ve seen time and time again from similar thrillers over the years. You know exactly what’s coming, and it’s up to your personal enjoyment of the little intricacies within Bad Samaritan for it to become a fun experience. The movie has a fairly weak personality in that regard.
Bad Samaritan does its best to dress up rather silly moments by surrounding them with an overbearing sense of seriousness, and that’s precisely where the film goes wrong. A film that includes such an exploitative backbone requires more than a constant dour tone. Seriousness is completely acceptable, but Bad Samaritan is so concerned appearing significant that it doesn’t take many risks. Instead, it wastes its own time — and the audience’s — with story beats that are never as thrilling or as clever as they try to appear. The result is a film that was probably better served for some type of streaming service rather than a theatrical release.
No one will ever accuse of Bad Samaritan of reinventing the wheel. But, it’s not necessarily trying to do so. With a pulpy premise that harkens back to crime thrillers from the 1990’s, Bad Samaritan injects enough trashy fun into its premise with the help of a seriously committed performance from David Tennant in the lead role.
However, one might leave the film wanting a bit more. With many moments that you’ll see coming a mile away in combination with many clichés from the grisly thriller subgenre, Bad Samaritan is a little forgetful, which keeps it from becoming an overwhelmingly positive experience.
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