Dean Devlin’s latest is proof that it’s sometimes easier to deliver thrills on a micro-budget.
Geostorm may have $120 million to play with, but the result was a CGI storm in a teacup – and pretty weak tea at that. With Bad Samaritan, however, Devlin provides us with a neat, kitschy little B-movie steeped in entertaining tropes.
Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan) is an aspiring photographer who works nights as a valet at a fancy Italian restaurant. He also moonlights as an opportunist burglar; ingeniously using the sat-nav to figure out his customers’ place of residence and gaining entrance while they’re guaranteed to be out at dinner.
He and his accomplice/best friend Derek (Carlito Olivero) think they have a good thing going until, one evening, Sean breaks into the wrong property; an ultramodern mansion belonging to condescending, Maserati-driving Cale Erendreich (David Tennant). While there he sees something he can’t easily forget: a woman (Kerry Condon); beaten and terrified, and chained to the wall of Cale’s study.
Sean is a decent human, despite the odd spot of larceny, and promptly contacts the police, but Cale is a meticulous psychopath. Before the officers even knock on his door, any trace of his captive has disappeared. Having interfered with Cale’s plans, Sean finds himself the target of a trust-fund brat with limitless resources who nevertheless enjoys getting his hands dirty.
Brandon Boyce’s script neatly sews the seeds of Sean’s destruction- such as an incriminating photo of his girlfriend Riley (Jacqueline Bryers) – all of which Cale takes great pleasure in reaping. Everyone behaves reasonably within the realms of logic, though the police are remarkably ineffectual on the whole and a hoodie covers a multitude of sins.
Sheehan impresses as the devil-may-care Sean, whose scruffy charm turns to desperation when faced with an actual devil, but it’s Tennant whose worth the price of admission. He brings a seething intensity to this drawling slick-haired of toxic privilege – Hannibal Lecter as trust-fund brat. Stylised flashbacks to some formative childhood trauma go some way towards explaining his particular brand of sadistic kink.
There’s screaming and murder aplenty, especially when the film veers into horror in the third act, but there are enough well-conceived genre moments – wringing tension from a misplaced phone handset, for instance – that it never outstays its welcome.
With its overblown orchestral score and chilly Portland scenery, Bad Samaritan is not a film anyone is likely to accuse of great nuance or subtlety, but, then again, when it comes to trashy TVOD thrillers, who’d want to be accused of that?
Bad Samaritan arrives in UK cinemas on August 28th.