Movie Review: “Bad Samaritan” – Well…Mediocre Samaritan

Written by Jeremiah Greville May 19, 2018

Bad Samaritan

There’s a reason all of your annoying anglophile friends keep recommending British television shows. Some of the best programs on TV are from across the pond, and many of the most charismatic actors today found their start on the BBC or E4. Robert Sheehan was the roguish mop-headed breakout star of the first two seasons of Misfits. And David Tennant stole everyone’s heart as the 10th Doctor of BBC’s long-running Doctor Who. Both star in the new thriller Bad Samaritan, and together they’re the biggest reason to see the film. Probably the only reason.

Bad Samaritan stars Robert Sheehan as Sean Falco, a young valet who doubles as a burglar. When Sean uses a rude customer’s car to burglarize their home, he ends up finding a young woman chained inside. What does he do? He freaks out, and leaves her there — but then resolves to eventually return and free her. Thus begins a dangerous game of cat and mouse between Sean and the man holding her captive, Cale (David Tennant). Bad Samaritan is written by Brandon Boyce and directed by Dean Devlin. Devlin is famous for writing Independence Day, Stargate, and the 90’s Godzilla, but debuted as a director for the first time last year with…Geostorm, which he also wrote and produced.

Geostorm. Yeah.

“I deserve to go to jail.”

For film buffs, that will be indictment enough, but for those unaware: Geostorm was a famously troubled production that cost its studio massive amounts of money, went years past its original production schedule with re-shoots, and still ended up being one of the worst reviewed movies of 2017. I went into Bad Samaritan as a blank slate. I didn’t know anything about the film other than the actors involved, and what the poster looked like. There’s a reason that poster didn’t read “From the director of Geostorm”. If it had, I never would’ve entered the theatre. Robert Sheehan is wonderful, but he didn’t save Geostorm with his presence last year either. And David Tennant is always superb, but there’s only so much one man can do.

Bad Samaritan

So, with that being said, it’s safe to say that Robert Sheehan and David Tennant are the best parts of Bad Samaritan. Sheehan is charming and lovable even as he stumbles and makes the wrong decisions. Tennant shines with dark intensity and cold, grim malevolence. It’s a shame that the pair don’t share more screen time, though that’s a consequence of the structure of the film. However, for David Tennant fans the movie can be a strange experience at times. While Sheehan plays the same sort of character he’s known for, Tennant plays against type. Tennant has an uncanny skill to disarm audiences with unexpected humanity — even in stoic or morally reprehensible characters. Bad Samaritan, however, prevents him from doing this, and limits the scope of what he’s able to do.

“I have to do the right thing.”

Unfortunately, his screen presence isn’t enough to save some awful dialogue and bizarre artistic choices. Tennant’s character, Cale, monologues in snippets about his motivation for kidnapping his prisoner, played by Kerry Condon. It’s all meant to mark him as an original villain with a unique backstory, but ends up being entirely forgettable. His oft-repeated mantras come out of nowhere and lead back to the same place. Exposition is employed so haphazardly that whenever it’s not filling in for character development, it’s instead the screenwriter congratulating himself. And when characters aren’t moving they’re framed in forced camera angles and poor lighting. Half of this movie feels like a film student’s first attempt at a final project. And it doesn’t make the grade.

Bad Samaritan

But it’s the other half of the film that makes Bad Samaritan difficult to quantify. For every bad scene or decision, there’s a better one to make up for it. The premise is original and well explored, and the movie swerves left when you’re expecting it to swerve right just enough times to remain interesting. The second act of the film, when it focuses fully on Tennant and Sheehan, is actually quite entertaining at times. And while the final act fails to live up to the creative choices of the first two, it does still deliver some damn fine moments. Kerry Condon even gets to deliver the film’s finest line near the very end, subverting convention. When Bad Samaritan bucks expectations, the movie is better for it. I just wish it tried harder, or that the final product was more consistent.

“What is the perfect score?”

There’s a good movie hidden in Bad Samaritan, but you have to wade through a sea of mediocrity to get to it. Tennant and Sheehan are reliably wonderful, but can only do so much when the material isn’t up to their talents. The tragedy here is that the material is clearly trying — Boyce and Devlin obviously intended something original. But achieving greatness is like escaping gravity: the higher you get, the harder you fall. They just can’t seem to achieve liftoff, and keep snapping back to cliche. To belabour the metaphor: sometimes film-making IS rocket science. Bad Samaritan isn’t the worst film of the year, nor is it an absolute waste of time. It’s just not a good use of it either. It’s a movie that veers uncomfortably between an 8 and a 4. So to the split the difference…

My Rating: 6/10

bad-samaritan-poster

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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