J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Bad Samaritan: David Tennant Goes Nuts

Maybe you thought folks were generally nice up in Oregon, like it’s the American Canada, except for Tonya Harding’s mother. Yet, they have plenty of psychopaths too. For instance, Ted Bundy stalked some victims there. Cale Erendreich is a similarly clean-cut looking serial killer, but the entitled creep is definitely not a charmer. Thanks to his wealth, he has evaded detection for years, but a clueless valet-parking burglar is about to blunder across his latest victim in Dean Devlin’s Bad Samaritan (trailer here), which opens today nationwide.

Sean Falco and his crony Derek Sandoval had a pretty good racket going. They talked their way into the valet parking concession at what is apparently Portland’s only upscale Italian restaurant, so they can use the cars’ GPS and garage door openers to plunder small, easily liquidated items that would not be immediately missed. Falco thinks he has hit the jackpot with Erendreich’s swanky pad, until he finds a woman chained up in the study.

Spooked by the killer’s state-of-the-art surveillance, Falco beats a hasty retreat, but he tries to anonymously drop a dime with the cops. However, Erendreich is like Mary Poppins when it comes to quickly tidying up incriminating evidence, like a woman in restraints. Naturally, the Portland cops immediately decide Falco is a crank, or worse. The FBI is a little bit smarter, but they are still bound by procedure and red tape. That basically leaves Falco on his own when Erendreich starts stalking the would-be thief and everyone close to him.

Bad Samaritan is not exactly high art, but it is compulsively watchable in a lurid, one-darned-thing-after-another kind of way. One thing is for sure: David Tennant came to play. He preens like a peacock and absolutely gorges on the scenery as the ultra-sinister and uber-elitist Erendreich. Frankly, Robert Sheehan is such an underwhelming sad sack (most of the time his looks like a water-logged dog who was caught in a torrential downpour), it is difficult to believe he can be remotely competitive with the coolly and cruelly manipulative killer. Frankly, Carlito Olivero consistently up-stages and over-shadows him as the exponentially more dynamic Sandoval.

There are plenty of face-palm moments when someone (usually Falco) does something stupid, just to set-up a future plot point. Regardless, Devlin certainly keeps it scampering along at a zippy pace. It is also nice to see poor Falco mostly trying to do right, thereby sparing us a lot of nauseating moral hand-wringing. You can call it a guilty pleasure, but Bad Samaritan will never bore you. (It beats the heck of Travis Z’s lifeless Portland-set Intruder.)  Probably destined to be a Netflix streaming staple, Bad Samaritan will still kill two hours pretty quickly for anyone looking for some movie theater air-conditioning when it opens today (5/4) in wide release (including the AMC Empire and Regal Union Square in New York).

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