Bad Samaritan

In one of screenwriter William Goldman’s (The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy, All the President’s Men) books, he talked about how disappointed he was in how his script for Absolute Power turned out. I thought the story worked. It was about a burglar (Clint Eastwood) who is robbing a mansion, that just happens to be where the President (Gene Hackman) brings a mistress. She ends up being shot and killed by the Secret Service, and they cover it up. Except, the burglar was in the closet and witnessed the whole thing.

When I heard the premise for Bad Samaritan, I thought it was similar, and that got me excited to see it. Either the movie didn’t screen for critics or I just dropped the ball. Either way, I headed to the Reading Town Square theatre over the weekend to check it out.

My wife informed me that the rich guy, played by Scotsman David Tennant (with a serviceable American accent), played Doctor Who in the British sci-fi series. He’s also played his share of heavies, and with those piercing eyes…when he gives that bug-eyed death scare, it rattled me.

This story involves two valets at a posh Italian restaurant. Sean Falco (Irish actor Robert Sheehan) yearns to be a photographer, while his stepfather yearns for him to get a real job. His girlfriend is finishing up college, and his life isn’t so bad for a 20-something slacker chilling out in Portland. That’s the city of struggling artists.

Sean has a natural charm, and good looks, and is the type of person you can see getting by easily in life. That is, until Cale (Tennant) rudely shows up with his Maserati. He barks those cliche lines rich people say to valets on screen — “Don’t touch the car” and “It better not get a scratch on it!” So, what is Sean to do? Well, take his car back to Cale’s  McMansion and rob the place while he’s dining. Now, it’s not the first time these valets have done this. In fact, it seems like they’re more into doing that than actually parking cars. I’m guessing they didn’t see the last Death Wish, because…sometimes doing that can end in a very painful death. But then…Tennant Is no vengeful Bruce Willis. He plays a Hannibal Lecter wanna-be, that when the going gets tough, turns into James Bond with a variety of gadgets.

It’s all a fine setup for a psychological thriller, but the screenwriter and director (who gave us the horrible Geostorm) don’t have a good grasp of psychology. They think starting the movie off with a horse being tortured and killed by a boy, will make us all understand the motivations behind this serial killer. Since the recent movie Thoroughbreds did such a great job showing us a psycho in a much more believable manner (who also tortured and killed a horse), I leaned into my wife and said, “This movie should be called ‘Thoroughbreds 2 — Electric Boogaloo’.”

And really, that was the only way to make this entertaining for us. It just got so ridiculous in the second half. Without spoiling too much, I’ll give you a small example of how ludicrous it all was. In one of the ways Cale gets revenge, Sean shows up at his parents’ house to find out his stepdad lost his job. He said the company accused him of stealing, he told them to search his truck, where they found $10,000 of stolen equipment. A few minutes later, his mom walks in crying. She got fired from her job as a nurse, saying somebody accused her of abusing a child. So the question I have is…if Cale is a genius that can do anything to anyone, how does he get into an office, steal lots of equipment, know which truck the dad drives, break into it and put equipment in there, without getting caught. And how does he call a hospital and lodge a complaint about abuse, and the hospital fires the accused, without investigating it. It’s idiotic flaws in logic like this, that take you out of the movie. It merely becomes a formulaic film with cliche dialogue.

The other valet, Derek (Carlito Olivero), is decent in his role, although you wonder why we’d have sympathy for two guys that burglarize homes.. In real life, I think we’d want Cale to go all nutso on them. Of course, the plot is thickened because the guys find a tied up woman (Kerry Condon) in the mansion. If they go to the police, they have to explain they were robbing the joint.

Police eventually get involved, but like most thrillers, they’re rather incompetent. That is, after being skeptical, despite video of the woman being tortured.

There were a few good lines, and a few good jump scares. The performances would’ve been good had Brandon Boyce (Venom) provided a better script and Dean Devil directed a movie that didn’t feel like a TV film (poor cinematography, and an orchestral score that doesn’t fit).

Most of the characters have tiresome conversations with each other, and even watching a psycho gets old with all his dopey tantrums.

The whole thing was dumb, but for some reason, there are a handful of critics out there that like it. The praise the woman in the LA Times gave it just baffles me. The entire theatre I saw it with, was making fun of it as they were leaving.

1 ½ stars out of 5.