US / 110 minutes / color / Electric Entertainment, Global Pictures Media Dir: Dean Devlin Pr: Dean Devlin, Marc Roskin, Rachel Olschan-Wilson Scr: Brandon Boyce Cine: David Connell Cast: David Tennant, Robert Sheehan, Kerry Condon, Carlito Olivero, Jacqueline Byers, Tracey Heggins, Robert P. Nagle, Lorraine Bahr, Jacob Resnikoff, David Meyers, Tony Doupe, Lisa Brenner, Sofia Hasmik, Delpaneaux Wills, Hannah Barefoot, Danny Bruno, Austin Fullard-Leo.
A movie that I didn’t expect to enjoy much—oh, noes, another serial-killer chiller, yawn, yawn—but ended up enjoying quite a lot. The premise is interesting, if not entirely unfamiliar, and the movie’s thrills derive from threatening situations rather than gratuitous grue—in fact, although there’s a fair amount of biffing and bashing, any sadistic violence is kept off-screen. As a result, the movie feels fresh even as it replows an already thoroughly tilled field.
David Tennant as Cale Erendreich.
In Portland, Oregon, impoverished young Irish photographer (Sheehan) and his best mate Derek Sandoval (Olivero) have a part-time job burgling houses. One night, burgling the home of trust fund billionaire and—it proves – bonkers serial killer Cale Erendreich (Tennant), Sean comes across a young woman, Katie Hopgood (Condon), chained to a chair, gagged and clearly having been readied for a nasty death. Stricken by conscience, knowing his actions will likely lead to a jail sentence for himself, Sean contacts the cops, first anonymously and then, when that isn’t taken seriously, a second time, now fully admitting the reason why he was in the house.
Kerry Condon as Katie.
Alas, the cops still aren’t too interested. And neither, it seems, is FBI Agent Olivia Fuller (Heggins). So Sean decides he’d better go it alone, trying to bring Erendreich down and free Katie.
Trouble is, Erendreich cottons on fast to Sean’s activities and turns the tables. He starts waging a war on Sean’s family and friends, including improbably pretty girlfriend Riley Seabrook (Byers), all leading up to a showdown with Sean himself . . .
Carlito Olivero as Derek Sandoval.
David Tennant, probably best known for the years he spent (June 2005 to January 2010) playing the title role in BBC Television’s long-running skiffy series Doctor Who, for much of the time here chillingly emulates Anthony Perkins’s rendition in Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO (1960). It was perhaps a risky gambit, because the temptation is to see the emulation rather than the performance (and to make unfavorable comparisons), but he pulls it off with elan. At first I was worried that Robert Sheehan’s turn as the Irish wastrel was going to be embarrassing—too full of the blarney, too comic-strip Hoirish—but he toned it down very soon and thereafter I didn’t find it troublesome. If Peter Jackson ever decides on another visit to Middle Earth and needs someone to replace Elijah Wood as Frodo, I’d reckon Sheehan’s your man.
Robert Sheehan as Sean Falco, before . . .
. . . and after.
Some gorgeous photography from David Connell around Portland gives the movie an additional patina of budget, but really it’s the screenplay and the performances that render Bad Samaritan so bracing. If it’s a horror movie you’re after, though, perhaps best to look elsewhere.
One interesting piece of trivia: All three of the principals are in fact from the British Isles, Sheehan and Condon from Ireland and Tennant from Scotland.