Bad Samaritan Movie Review
Written by Ren Zelen
Released by Signature Entertainment / Frightfest Presents
Directed by Dean Devlin
Written by Brandon Boyce
2018, 110 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Frightfest UK Premiere on 23rd August 2018
VOD & theatrical release on 24th August 2018
DVD released on 8th October 2018
David Tennant as Cale Erendreich
Robert Sheehan as Sean Falco
Kerry Condon as Katie
Carlito Olivero as Derek Sandoval
Jacqueline Byers as Riley Seabrook
No well-meaning Samaritan can be deemed as being ‘bad’ but in his new film Bad Samaritan, director Dean Devlin certainly offers one that is flawed, makes disastrous judgments and has very unfortunate timing.
Irish slacker Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan, Geostorm) and his buddy Derek Sandoval (Carlito Olivero) find work offering valet parking to customers of a classy Italian restaurant in Portland, Oregon.
However, whenever a well-to-do customer drives up, instead of dutifully parking the vehicle, one of the guys accesses an address via the navigation system, drives to the owner’s house, opens the garage door and burgles the place, keeping in touch by phone with his partner who watches the family progress through their dinner, acting as lookout. They don’t steal any large goods, just jewellery and easy-to-carry valuables.
One evening, arrogant trust-fund heir Cale Erendreich (David Tennant), pulls up in his Maserati. He is extraordinarily rude and condescending as he hands the boys the keys. Sean and Derek perceive a potentially lucrative robbery as well as a supremely deserving victim.
As Sean is searching Erendreich’s upmarket house, he manages to break into a locked office. What he discovers is set to disturb his conscience, and completely ruin his life. Sean not only finds Erendreich’s cheque book and computer, but a young woman (Kerry Condon), gagged, bloodied and chained up in something resembling the paraphernalia used to confine a wilful horse.
Sean’s latent morality and compassion come to the fore – he forgets about robbing the house, intent on freeing the imprisoned and beaten woman. She is however, very securely chained up, and before Sean can release her he is contacted by his flustered partner who has Erendreich waiting for his car to be returned. Stricken with fear and panic, Sean leaves the girl behind and flees, promising to return.
Haunted by what fate awaits the abducted girl, he places an anonymous call to the police, but Erendreich has smelled a rat in his swanky house and has already taken steps to prevent discovery. When the police arrive there is no victim and no trace of any violent activity.
When Erendreich tracks down his robber’s identity, he begins to systematically destroy Sean’s life, damage his relationships and put those closest to him in the hospital or in the morgue. A game of cat and mouse ensues between an impoverished young man who has made some bad life-choices, and a rich, amoral, homicidal maniac with a god complex and access to advanced technology.
Although I enjoyed Tennant's slightly hyperactive, pop-eyed version of Doctor Who, the scripts on that particular TV show constantly insisted that the female characters found him 'good looking'. I can't say I ever subscribed to that club and in Bad Samaritan the amiable Tennant puts on his scariest, most weaselly face, playing a rich, psychotic scumbag, mentally disturbed by some sort of horse-related trauma as a child. Tennant's entertainingly hammy performance livens up what is a fairly standard serial-killer-monster role.
Bad Samaritan hopes that the viewer will empathise with Robert Sheehan’s engaging, mop-headed, wide-eyed Sean – a small-time thief shaken into nobility by witnessing a far greater crime. The film may also try to appeal to the vague resentment that the have-nots nurse against the arrogant, privileged classes, particularly in times of austerity. The movie doesn’t necessarily condone Sean’s petty crimes, but it does present him as a repentant sinner doing penance for past transgressions.
Personally, I find horror films about women being terrorised by sadistic, deranged males (not being sexist, it's just predominantly the case) far more disturbing and frightening than any amount of ghouls, zombies, vampires or ghosts, because, you know, that sort of thing really happens. (Who are you more likely to find following you down a dark street, a knife-carrying attacker, or a debonair vamp hoping for a quickie transfusion?)
I've also never been comfortable with torture being offered as a source of entertainment, (despite spawning its inevitable sub-genre – the female revenge flick). However, as serial killers and violated females remain a horror-film staple, it doesn't look as though we're going to be rid of that particular form of frightener any time soon. The task for a female reviewer is attempting some sort of emotional detachment and assessing whether such a film has anything to offer rather than just being a source of cheap, sexually-tinged thrills and sadistic gore.
Bad Samaritan is an opportunity for director Devlin to attempt a traditional serial-killer thriller and, with the film's foggy, low-light, hazy grey colour palette, he creates a good-looking piece of tense, manipulative, genre entertainment that can hold the attention. Brandon Boyce’s screenplay does tend to descend somewhat into cliché, and while Bad Samaritan can’t really claim to be a ground-breaking or even a very good film, it can ensure that you are unlikely to be bored.
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