On the surface, the idea of Bad Samaritan is decent enough for a thriller. A struggling young photographer named Sean (Robert Sheehan) has a side business to make ends meet instead of taking a corporate job: he and his buddy Derek (Carlito Olivero) work as valets in a Portland restaurant, and while the customers are inside dining, they take the cars to the guests’ homes and rob them.
They keep their hauls relatively small to avoid attracting attention, but when an arrogant and clearly wealthy fellow named Cale (David Tennant) shows up in a Maserati, they know they’ve got a lucrative mark. That is, until Sean breaks into Cale’s house and discovers that he’s got a garage full of knives — and a woman (Kerry Condon) gagged and chained up in a secret room who begs Sean to set her free. Before Sean can do anything, he gets a call from Derek: Cale is done with dinner and wants his car back.
Written by Brandon Boyce, Bad Samaritan is directed by Dean Devlin, former producer on a slew of Roland Emmerich spectacles (from Stargate through The Patriot, along with Independence Day: Resurgence) who turned his own hand toward directing with last year’s Emmerich-style knockoff Geostorm. While that latter film — a greatest hits compendium of city-leveling natural disasters –had its moments of entertaining loopiness, it was more boringly generic than anything else. The same could be said about the much smaller scale Bad Samaritan — it lands a few solid scares and twists, but much more of it is telegraphed in advance and tediously familiar.
The biggest problem is that Devlin himself has no particular style as a filmmaker: from the unremarkable compositions to the murky lighting to the turgid pacing to even the way he handles his actors, everything here plays like the work of a director just going through the paces before moving to the next direct-to-video horror programmer.
None of the actors are especially inspired either: Sheehan has some good moments, especially early on when he candidly acknowledges his mistakes (like not handing the girl a phone, because he was too freaked out — an all-too-human reaction), but he lacks the depth or charisma to carry the picture and his exchanges with Olivero consist of grating bro back-and-forths.
As for Tennant, one of the most popular Doctors in the history of the long-running Doctor Who series, he’s wearing the same intense glower here that he utilized as the depraved Kilgrave on Jessica Jones. Right off the bat he’s shown to be a total asshole — even without keeping a woman prisoner in his house against her will — and the character really has nowhere to go from there. Even a middle stretch that focuses on him and his captive is more exploitative than illuminative, and the lengths he goes to when he turns the tables on Sean and begins dismantling the latter’s life are overblown.
It’s hard to say that Bad Samaritan is a Bad Movie outright, because it’s not, sort of — but aside from its high-concept premise, the film is derivative, often ponderous and, at 111 minutes, way too long for what it’s got to offer. It never quite reaches the level of the insanely terrible movie that you just sit and watch in stupefied wonder, nor does anything stand out to make it a worthy recommendation. This is one instance where a movie could have used a little more bad to make it good…if that makes any sense.
Bad Samaritan is out in theaters now.