Directed by Dean Devlin. Starring Robert Sheehan, David Tennant, Kerry Condon, Carlito Olivero.
Thriller, USA, 100 mins, cert 15.
Released on DVD in the UK by Signature on the 8th October, 2018 and available now on streaming services.
You might have thought that, after decades working on Roland Emmerich's apocalyptic box-office behemoths, that writer-producer Dean Devlin would most likely continue on that level once he switched to directing. And indeed he already has, with last year's magnificently silly GEOSTORM. Yet he's now suddenly switched to a project on a much smaller and less spectacular scale: a low-budget cat-and-mouse psycho thriller in which there are no aliens, no A-list movie stars, only one house blows up and the weather gets no worse than a light snowfall. And oddly enough, it's no less effective or enjoyable for its reduced scope.
The mouse in this cat-and-mouse game is supposedly lovable rogue and struggling photographic artist Sean (Robert Sheehan), who poses as a restaurant parking valet to access customers' houses in the best areas of Portland, Oregon. Usually this ends in either low-level reward (loose cash and jewellery) or comedic confrontations with guard dogs, but on this occasion the flash Maserati belongs to rich sleaze Cade (David Tennant), and his obscenely vast luxury house boasts little that's worth stealing. But in Cade's office, Sean discovers a young woman, battered, chained and gagged. Sean can't free her so he calls the police anonymously - but nothing happens and Cade turns his attentions to Sean, slowly taking his life apart, hacking into his Facebook account and arranging his parents' unemployment. Inevitably, it's left to Sean to track down the villain on his own and rescue the girl, while the police barely bother to investigate (the alarm was raised by an immigrant housebreaker with a criminal record, after all). Meanwhile Cade has suddenly decided to leave the country and just has to tie up the loose ends....
Character is nicely sketched in: though he occasionally degenerates into a generic horror movie barking lunatic, Cade is actually a slightly more interesting bad guy than expected. His obsession with chaining up women isn't sexual, it's about control and training rather than some kind of tawdry FIFTY SHADES OF GREY kink, and he has a slightly unusual back story about a childhood trauma involving horses. And it does look like Tennant had some fun with the role, shedding the Fan Favourite Doctor Who image to play someone so irredeemably nasty (and a lot more successfully than his Russell Brand act in the awful FRIGHT NIGHT remake). Nominal hero Sean, meanwhile, is an unapologetic and hard to like criminal who just once tries to do the right thing and ends up paying for it.
BAD SAMARITAN is good grisly fun that's nasty and brutal when it needs to be, particularly with the climactic one-on-one confrontation. At 100 minutes it's perhaps slightly on the long side for what is basically a straight-to-video B-movie, but there's very little fat on it: it's stripped-down, efficiently done and well-mounted (with a proper, occasionally Irish-tinged orchestral score from THE EVIL DEAD's Joseph LoDuca). It's not a masterpiece and it's not going to change the world, but it's a solid, agreeably vicious thriller that's certainly worth a watch.