Bad Samaritan (2017) ****

August 20th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Dean Devlin; Cast: David Tennant, Robert Sheehan, Jacqueline Byers, Carlito Olivero, Kerry Condon, Tracey Higgins; USA 2018, 110 min.

Unjustly panned by major US outlets, this tight little B-movie directed by Dean Devlin (Geostorm) might not re-invent the neo-noir genre, but it has, thanks to writer Brandon Boyce’ (Apt Pupil), enough clever plot elements to keep the audience entertained. And  David Tennant’s well educated Ivy-League villain is truly frightening.

Sean (Sheehan) and his mate Derek (Olivero) work as car valets for a restaurant – but they have a nifty robbery sideline that keeps them flush: One of them motors via GPS to the house of the victim, and collects the loot, before returning the car before the pay check is exchanged. Enter Cale Erdenreich (Tennant), snotty and arrogant, who leaves his Maserati in the care of Sean (Sheehan), who has just come across Erdenreichs’s new credit card, which he gleefully activates. But his elation turns to horror when he finds a young woman (Condon) bloodied and held captive in a house they intended to rob. Sean miraculously morphs from small-time crook to upright citizen, promising to save the distraught victim. Which is easier said than done: first, the police don’t believe his story, only FBI agent Fuller (Higgins) takes him seriously. But the main obstacle is Erdenreich: cute and well-versed in alluding the police (via a flashback we see him kill a horse and its trainer as a teenage boy), and Sean is no match for him – at first. But after Erdenreich has beaten up Sean’s girl friend Riley (Byers) so badly that she has to be treated in Intensive Care, the hunter becomes the hunted.

Tennant makes the most of his psychotic serial-killer: he tells himself and his victims he is actually “correcting” them, breaking them in like the horse in the flashback. Like a true psychotic he believes he’s doing society a favour by murdering people who are “beyond correction”. Sometimes there’s a crack in the facade – when Erdenreich suddenly veers off script, hurling obscenities at his victims. But mostly, he is very much in control: in one scene, we see him, gun in hand, watching Sean under the shower. But instead of shooting, Erdenreich puts the safety on, mouths “poof” and leaves smiling.

DoP David Connell’s widescreen images pay homage to Portland/Oregon; his use of the electronic gear in the cat-and-mouse game between Cale and Sean is truly impressive. Devlin, producer of Godzilla and Independence Day, occasionally goes over but with a character like Erdenreich, this seems only logical. Finally, in classic noir tradition, there is a neat final twist: the filmmakers take on board a psychopath’s need to rid the planet of undesirables – wherever they find them. AS



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