One bad night… One bad decision… Can haunt you forever.
Bad Samaritan follows the cat-and-mouse game between struggling artist Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan of British sci-fi Misfits fame) and maniacal psychopath Cale Erendreich played brilliantly by David Tennant (Doctor Who, Jessica Jones). As mentioned, Falco is struggling to make ends meet and turns to robbing the people he valet parks for. And as the tagline suggests, Falco realizes he broke into the wrong house after finding a woman being held captive in Erendreich‘s home. Failing to save the girl, Falco attempts to make amends by reporting what he saw. This series of bad decisions leads to Cale coming after Falco, attempting to systematically ruin his entire life. I can comfortably say the tagline for this film (in relation to both it’s story, and production) is pretty accurate.
Let’s start with the positives. The two lead performances in Bad Samaritan are pretty dang good. Sheehan brings a humble relatability to an otherwise generic character, thanks to his natural charisma and the subversive writing of Falco by the movie’s scribe Brandon Boyce. But it’s David Tennant’s Cale that serves as the film’s main course, bringing his usual sinister charm to the meal…with a gracious serving of “Nicolas Cage Crazy-Sauce” (trademark pending). They say a hero is only as good as his villain, and the first third of the movie focusing on Sean felt like nothing out of the ordinary. But once Tennant takes over, Bad Samaritan turns into a pretty fun suspense flick.
Most horror films find away to get rid of technology to up the tension, while Bad Samaritan actually uses technology in rational ways to propel the story forward. The script from Boyce also played a key role in grounding this, at times, ridiculous movie. Sean felt like a real person stuck in this scenario and, unlike most protagonists, tries to get redemption for his mistakes pretty early. This makes for an interesting arc and I really felt bad for the guy.
“The movie starts off pretty straight forward and serious but as Cale’s cartoon-ish villainy […] Bad Samaritan shifts to almost B-movie levels of camp.”
Where the film falters most is mainly on the production end. Why is there so much CGI city footage? Why is the score whimsical at times? I also have absolutely no sense of how much time passed in this film. The first half is a little confusing to follow, specifically regarding tone. The movie starts off pretty straight forward and serious but as Cale’s cartoon-ish villainy is revealed and questionable lines of dialogue become more frequent, Bad Samaritan shifts to almost B-movie levels of camp. Especially it’s use of jump-scares that almost came off mockingly, and whether or not it’s intentional never really becomes clear. Luckily, Boyce’s script still shines through and the second half of the film melds together more cohesively.
I spent a good amount of time during the first half trying to figure out what the movie was going for, and it was distracting. Once the film settled into itself Bad Samaritan turns into a pretty good thrill ride, finishing out strong with a satisfying finale. Again, this was all David Tennant. Cale is a special kind of crazy- the kind of guy who drinks two cups of coffee and then an espresso. He’s violent, scarily efficient, has a totally twisted backstory involving horses, and most importantly: his villain quips were equal parts intimidating, confusing, and hilarious. Now that I’m thinking about it, Nicholas Cage would have killed this role too.
Bad Samaritan is exactly what you expect it to be, while at the same time throwing plenty of curveballs to keep you on your toes. The plot and characters aren’t exactly original or groundbreaking, but they are used in ways that the audience wouldn’t normally expect. I predicted a good amount of the cat-and-mouse beats, but was surprised at how much I cared about Sean due to how real the stakes were. The film could have embraced its tone sooner but overall, Bad Samaritan is worth checking out. Best case scenario, you watch a surprisingly entertaining thriller with a truly menacing villain. Worst case scenario, you have a fun flick to drink beers and make fun of with your homies. if I’m sitting at home and Bad Samaritan comes on TNT, I’m totally watching it again.
Bad Samaritan is now playing in limited theatres. The film is written by Brandon Boyce (Apt Pupil, Wicker Park), directed by Dean Devlin (Geostorm), starring Kerry Condon (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) David Tennant (Jessica Jones, Dr. Who), and Robert Sheehan (Geostorm, Mute).