Why is Doctor Who trying to kill the main characters? More importantly, why is he American? These are important questions to be asked when watching “Bad Samaritan.” David Tennant’s surprisingly good accent and a smart 21st century duel carry the otherwise by-the-numbers thriller. I hope you’re taking notes, Benedict Cumberbatch.
Ever since “The Dark Knight,” there’s been a rash of villains that writers believe will be interesting solely due to their unpredictable acts of violence. Not everyone can be Heath Ledger. Thankfully, Tennant’s sociopath is the exact opposite: every ruinous act is done for a specific and obvious reason. This works because, first of all, we can tell for ourselves that this is man is dangerous—and worse, competent. Also, since we can tell just how competent he is we understand how thought-out his plan is, and just how screwed the protagonist is.
The protagonist is no slouch either. The whole reason he gets into this mess is because his burglary scheme is too efficient. He and his friend work as valets for a fancy restaurant in a residential area, and whenever they get a car, they plug “home” into the GPS and use the automatic garage door openers to break in and steal anything small and valuable—anything that could be thought of as “misplaced” instead of stolen. It’s refreshing to watch high-stakes chess instead of two superpowered movie stars boxing each other’s teeth out.
Speaking of the protagonist, I have no clue what his name is. I can tell you he’s Irish and has curly hair, but the movie doesn’t tell you much more beyond that. The actor is a fellow named Robert Sheehan; he’s not bad by any means, but the script doesn’t make his character particularly interesting, except in his relationship with Tennant’s character.
The worst bit of “Bad Samaritan” by far is the plotline where an FBI agent gives the villain’s backstory but does nothing to assist in the main conflict. Really, any scene that doesn’t include Sheehan, Tennant, or Sheehan’s sidekick is morbidly uninteresting.
The first 15 minutes of the movie suffer similarly, before Tennant exists to pose a serious threat to Sheehan. Cutting those first 15 minutes would only drop two important character details, and those could certainly have been reincorporated elsewhere for a much more engaging first act. It would have helped me remember the characters’ names if the scenes in which they were introduced were any good. Stick with it, though, and Tennant makes it worth it.
You’ll like “Bad Samaritan” if:
-You find yourself constantly frustrated with poor decision making by characters in other suspense films.
-A smart plotline is more important to you than Hollywood star power.
-You think those last 10 minutes of “Psycho” are the best. You know, after Norman Bates has been captured, all the suspense is gone, and a couple psychologists explain EXACTLY what’s wrong with him.
Skip “Bad Samaritan” if:
-An elevated heart rate is not on your to-do list.
-You dislike brief nudity, moderate violence, and endless cursing.
-A movie needs to be more than just above-average to deserve your cash.