Dean Devlin‘s Bad Samaritan offers a playful twist on the usual good Samaritan tropes with a light thriller. After a series of writing gigs for Roland Emmerich in the 90s and his directorial debut, Geostorm, it feels like a massive departure from his safety zone. Devlin‘s studio Electric Entertainment bought the screenplay written by Brandon Boyce in 2013, and it immediately enters development hell until the producer finally steps in the directorial duty.
The Umbrella Academy‘s Robert Sheehan takes the main stage in this scuffle, portraying the corrupted protagonist, Sean Falco. He’s a valet driver with an ulterior motive as he often schemes small-time burglaries to his clients. His petty crime scheme accidentally hits the jackpot when he and his confidant discover a girl (Kerry Condon) locked and beaten inside the house of a client who should’ve been Sean’s latest victim. It will eventually lead to Bad Samaritan‘s best element: the antagonist.
On the opposite end to Sheehan‘s vulnerable protagonists, David Tennant (all the best things in the recent Doctor Who, Jessica Jones, and Good Omens) is running rampant. The Scottish actor portrays Cale Erendreich, a gentleman channeling all American Psycho nastiness to quench his sadistic tendency. Disturbed by the discovery, Sean tries everything in his power to save the girl from Cale’s grasp; however, his opponent is a sophisticated, methodical killer.
While Bad Samaritan doesn’t seem to offer the freshest idea, the story takes a reinvigorated look at a cat-and-mouse game between two criminals of different modus operandi. Boyce‘s script portrays Sean as a reluctant anti-hero whose conscience gets challenged. Witnessing the wickedness of the omnipresent Cale awakens something within him; it might be his path of redemption. However, the script is keen to give us the benefits of the doubt. There are moments when hesitation gets ahold of him, but finally, he earns the chance for atonement that eventually pushes the plot forward.
Devlin‘s direction sees a massive change from his previous disastrous disaster movie, Geostorm, in terms of scale and suspense. With a more grounded situation, he can reassess his capability to amp the tension to a more realistic scale. The result is a frustrating yet worthwhile, edge-of-the-seat thriller. At times, it almost feels like the whole plot is frustrating for the sake of it. There are moments where the villain outpowers the narrative with inexplicable intel. It eventually comes down to this thriller’s ace killer.
What makes the unbalanced thriller works is undeniably Tennant‘s tenacious persona. His nuanced performance gives life to the nasty sociopath. Bad Samaritan builds its entire narrative and mood upon Cale’s traits. He’s a frustrating, one-dimensional character who takes pleasure in pissing people off; that’s what this thriller has become. The whole film can only be as good as Tennant‘s on-screen manifestation; and, he’s a beast. His ominous presence dominates the screen almost entirely, making the film’s double-pivot plot inclined towards his character.
The film is utterly uncomfortable to the extent that it’s almost disturbing without having to go ultra-violent. However, that’s what Bad Samaritan seems to aim for: to make a bone-chilling experience for its compact 107 minutes. With Sheehan‘s gradually sympathetic character and Tennant‘s perfect villain, it’s hard to resist the sheer temptation even when it sometimes feels frustrating beyond belief.
Bad Samaritan, produced by Legion M and distributed by Electric Entertainment, was originally released theatrically in 2018. Dean Devlin acted as a producer and the director of the film from the script by Brandon Boyce. Australian cinematographer David Connell is in charge of the cinematography, while Brian Gonosey edits the picture altogether. Emmy-winning composer, Joseph LoDuca (Evil Dead series), provides the film’s scoring. Bad Samaritan is now available to stream on Mola TV.