No Good Deed (2014) / Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sequences of violence, menace, terror, and for language
Running Time: 84 min.
Cast: Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson, Leslie Bibb, Henry Simmons, Kate del Castillo
Director: Sam Miller
Screenplay: Aimee Lagos
Review published September 13, 2014
No Good Deed is no good movie.
Borrowing a page (or three) from the cycle of domestic thrillers that were churned out wholesale in the late 1980s and early 1990s, one can only imagine the script by Aimee Lagos (96 Minutes) must smell musty, dug out of a drawer where it had been sitting since the time when the subgenre of thrillers had played out completely 20 years ago. Perhaps it's not a surprise to learn that the film had been shelved for over two years prior to finally seeing release in 2014.
That script involves an incarcerated Colin Evans (Elba, Thor: The Dark World), who has been denied parole for his manslaughter charge with little hope he'll get out before his sentence is fully complete because he is suspected to have been the culprit in the murder of five women they lack the evidence to convict him for. The rap on Colin is that he has malignant narcissism, and shows it when he decides freedom is what he deserves, despite what the parole board says, when he makes a violent escape and getaway. When his stolen vehicle ends up crashing on a rain-slick road in the posh suburbs of Atlanta, the escaped convict ends up at the home of married mother of two Terri (Henson, Think Like a Man Too) whose husband is away, to use the phone to get a tow, or so he says. Eventually, Colin reveals he isn't just looking for a tow, and Terri finds herself alone with her kids and a killer in the house who can't seem to control his violent temper.
Directed with an eye for PG-13 rated steaminess, veteran TV director Sam Miller (Elephant Juice, Among Giants), who guided Elba to success in the hit BBC show "Luther", can't spark much life, despite charismatic actors, from a script that has little to offer that audiences haven't seen before, save perhaps for the inclusion of African-American leads, who also serve as executive producers. Elba never successfully makes Colin much more than a psychopathic hothead, lacking the truly scary gravitas to ignite the screen the way the way Glenn Close does in Fatal Attraction, Sharon Stone does in Basic Instinct, and Robert De Niro does in Cape Fear. Miller tries to inject the movie with a certain sensuality, perhaps suggesting that the aggressiveness that makes Colin so scary also makes him kind of sexy, but it's only because it's Idris Elba in the role, and he takes off his shirt whenever possible, that anyone might give the notion a pass. At least we don't get a sensual pie-baking scene, a la Labor Day.
One of the things I wondered about while watching the film is, given that the parole hearing is so highly publicized, and Colin kills no less than two police officers in cold blood as he makes his escape, why no one bothers to notify his ex-fiancé (Del Castillo, Under the Same Moon) to be on the lookout for him to show up (or to even tail her to see if he does). The reason? The film would end right then and there if Atlanta PD were shown doing its job properly. Colin must know that no one watches the news in suburban Atlanta because he uses his real name to everyone he meets.
Meanwhile, Screen Gems withheld screenings for critics claiming that there is a twist so good in the film that it doesn't want leaked out due to careless reviewers. Having seen the film, I can tell you that the so-called twist isn't a twist; it's just a tidbit that the creative minds behind the story decided to withhold until the third act. It doesn't really enhance the film, and even makes some of the character motivations even less plausible as you begin to think back on the events up to that point. In other words, the thing Screen Gems didn't want critics to reveal is that it's a terrible film.
The only "good deed" performed by the cliché-ridden movie is in keeping the run time to a meager 84 minutes, though it still feels leaden even at that minimal length. It's a generic home invasion thriller without thrills -- even cheap ones.
©2014 Vince Leo