‘Bad Samaritan’: and the sin of being entertaining

With the democratisation of filmmaking and the move to digital distribution, something refreshing is happening with American cinema. There has been a slow crawl away from New York and Los Angeles and out into ‘real America’.  Dean Devlin in his follow up to Geostorm, Bad Samaritan, sets events in Portland, Oregon. Watch enough American pop culture and the same locations keep on popping up over and over again, I have become bored of these cities in a country I haven’t even been to. Taking place in a city like Portland brings a freshness that can’t be replicated by any number of writers. British culture is the same, anchored in London and oh so very tired.

Modern standards have skewed in the weirdest of ways. Being entertaining is fine in the blockbuster space, but outside of that and you apparently need to strive for more. Originality, innovation, or any number of the other buzzwords that are thrown around in advertising agencies are the only yardsticks for greatness outside the mainstream. The reason I bring this up is that Bad Samaritan has been on the wrong end of whipping and while it may not revolutionise the crime movie you will be hard pushed to watch Devlin’s new joint and not come away entertained. The 70s and 80s were stacked with titles like this, silent victims to a national film industry at the very peak of its powers. With the sheer amount of films being made in recent years, most films are destined to be forgotten about – Bad Samaritan is but one of them. Movies can’t keep pushing out as many new titles as they currently do, something is going to give.

In this already overlooked movie, the forever charming Robert Sheehan (Falco) and Carlito Olivero (Derek) run a valet con outside a local Italian restaurant, where they take a car back to its owners home and proceed to steal whatever they can in a short space of time. One of the customers that fall into their dangerous game is David Tennant ((Cale Elendreich) sporting a terrible American accent), an extremely rich and obnoxious man, who, to the two young conmen, is like the ultimate prize. Reality has dealt them a much harsher hand, however, as back in Tennant’s lavish, designer home locked up in his office is a young woman, Kerry Condon (Katie). Desperate to free her yet needing to rush back to return the car to its rightful owner, Sheehan gives up on saving her that day but commits to freeing her – no matter how long it takes. Tennant is a smart, evil man. He is not keeping this woman a captive for sexual reasons, he is keeping her captive as he breaks people like someone would break horses in. Who is the ‘Bad Samaritan’ – Falco who wants to free this woman despite being a thief or Elendreich ‘improves’ people through violence, manipulation, and insidious mental conditioning? It is an interesting quandary.

To return to my earlier defence, the worst you can say about Derek Devlin’s new film is that it is entertaining – a big step up from Geostorm. Sometimes you want to watch an uncomplicated, entertaining movie. Critics, cinemagoers, and their opinions are diverging more, year and year, with the only real victim being the movies. Without critics attention and the advertising dollars that are spread increasingly thickly among a select few, the movie industry is designed to forget those who don’t set the world on fire in some way. And all this I read in a movie that suffers the sin of being merely entertaining. Bad Samaritan is an uncomplicated film albeit one with a fascinating concept and many moments to get you to fist pump the air,  whether you see it at the cinema or watch the DVD you will get involved in the back and forth, enjoying what it has to offer before move onto the next title – happy, satisfied, full. 

There are issues, of course. The characterisation is weak – Devlin and his scriptwriter Brandon Boyce have penned a story that is driven by goals, goals given a great credibility by the quality of the actors on display. Robert Sheehan is always great value for money if you want to make your lead – no matter how morally duplicitous – likable, he is your man. How he isn’t a bigger deal I do not know. And David Tennant, his accent may be ripe, but as he showed in Marvel’s Jessica Jones he does dominant and creepy very well. The way Tennant threatens to correct Sheehan is absolutely delicious. There is only one way for me to describe the score by Joseph LoDuca, “TV movie-like”. And the last act doesn’t have the conviction of the earlier two. Nonetheless, as I have gone to great pains to express, there are far worse things for a movie to be than merely entertaining.



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