Bad Samaritan (Movie Review)

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: A pair of petty burglars gets in over their heads when finding a woman held captive in a house they plan to loot.

REVIEW: Longtime mass-appeal writer/producer Dean Devlin (INDEPENDENCE DAY, GODZILLA), who finally decided to train his eye behind the directorial lens in 2011 (BRAIN TRUST), has made a drastically misguided departure from the light, breezy campiness of his two popular TV series, Leverage and The Librarians, into far graver waters with BAD SAMARITAN – an asininely ersatz DON’T BREATHE knockoff that, despite starting strong, in the end falls victim to a rash of ridiculous plot contrivances and absurd character actuations. Not even David Tennant, who has culled quite the cult following in his own right after portraying Dr. Who for eight years, is able force his histrionically menacing turn as the central antagonist into an overall gestalt of greatness. Diehard completists of his will surely benefit from a look, but for everyone else, there simply are neither enough good graces, nor enough acts of unkindness, to give BAD SAMARITAN a juried day in court.

Set in Portland, Oregon (just as Leverage and The Librarians were), Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan) operates the perfect small-time crime scheme. Working as a valet attendant at an upscale restaurant, Sean joyrides to chosen customer’s fancy houses, burgles a few valuable but unnoticeable items, and returns the car before the patrons are finished dining. Seems too good to work forever though, right? Indeed. As you’ve seen the marketing materials, a plot wrinkle that was magnificently held under wraps in the far superior DON’T BREATHE, Sean and his pal Derek (Carlito Olivero) soon pick the wrong house. And by wrong, let’s be clear. These kids break into a house where a young girl named Katie (Kerry Condon) is being held captive in a secret room, gagged and bound to a chair, all alone. Having to act fast, Sean and Derek are soon met by Katie’s captor, a wealthy, fastidious, OCD madman named Cale Erendreich (Tennant), whose motivations are quite unclear upfront.

Cue the moral dilemma driving the dramatic arc of the film: should Sean and Derek make an effort to save the girl and risk own possible arrest for breaking and entering? Or should they leave the girl to whatever cruel fate Cale has in store for her as a means of preserving their own legal freedom? Which will weigh heavier on their collective consciences? It’s an ethical quagmire worthy of exploring, no doubt, but as the reels unspool, the key question gets answered with greater and more frustrating dissatisfaction. Blame must be assigned to screenwriter Brandon Boyce, who’s shown to be capable of top-tier writing in the past (APT PUPIL), yet here devolves his story into one laughable plot erosion after another, churning out ludicrous genre platitudes by the minute. And there seems to be a direct correlation between how far-fetched the action gets and how exorbitant and over-the-top Tennant cranks his performance to. It all just sort of unravels to frivolity in the final reel, with neither enough intensely uncomfortable violence nor enough character compassion to be moved by one way or the other. A shame, considering the intriguing promise flashed in the first half hour or so.

Unfortunately, it’s a kind of promise that is never potentiated when it needs to count most, the ending. By the time we are finally made privy to how the resolution must play out, there are too many glaring plot gaps and dimwitted character decisions to really care about anyone involved or take any of it seriously. Sean is a petty criminal to begin with, mind you, so it isn’t as if we’re wholeheartedly on his side to start. He sways our sympathies a bit, but never enough, and given how silly some of Cale’s sexual peccadilloes are left unexplained, his sordid nature never fully told, given how his risible left-field alibis are presented so late in the day, the grave tone established early on evaporates into an air of lunacy in the end. Again, Tennant strains to give his character a certain dimensionality, but the script leaves his back-story too incomplete to lend any kind of understanding as to who he really is, why he acts the way he does, and what led him to become this way in the first place. I’m usually perfectly fine with unspoken villainous motivations, but here the character is too mannered of a human being, too eccentric not to have a least a modicum of explication given to clue us in. As it is, Cale is more of an obnoxious curio than a truly frightening foe!

Having gone to bat so heavily for DON’T BREATHE when it came out in 2016, I can’t conscionably recommend BAD SAMARITAN for those who dug the Fede Alvarez masterstroke as much as I. Its premise is too similar, its execution far too inferior. BAD SAMARITAN does start off with a decent amount of promising pull, only to sag with a slacking sense of overly-derivative predictability by the final reel. Therefore, I can really only give this one a mild endorsement to the rabid legion of David Tennant fans, even knowing full well it’s not even close to his best work. Yes, he does what he can for as long as he can, but in the end, the script deficiencies, gorging plot-holes, asinine character moves, and lack of legitimate hard-R horror movie violence, only serves to reinforce BAD SAMARITAN’s wrongdoing namesake.

Bad Samaritan



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Jake Dee is one of JoBlo’s most valued script writers, having written extensive, deep dives as a writer on WTF Happened to this Movie and it’s spin-off, WTF Really Happened to This Movie. In addition to video scripts, Jake has written news articles, movie reviews, book reviews, script reviews, set visits, Top 10 Lists (The Horror Ten Spot), Feature Articles The Test of Time and The Black Sheep, and more.