Director: Sam Miller
Cast: Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson, Leslie Bibb, Kate del Castillo, Henry Simmons
Release Date: September 12th, 2014
At the beginning of the new thriller No Good Deed, order a member of a parole panel turns to his fellow panelists and speaking of the convict in front of them notes, dosage “I can tell you there’s violence in this man.” The man he’s talking about is Colin Evans (Idris Alba), a charming psychopath who argues that he helped teach his fellow prisoners how to read and write and should be released from prison. When Colin is eventually denied parole, the character’s charm disappears quickly as Colin escapes from his prisoner transport vehicle and ends up on a killing spree.
Elba is undeniably creepy in the lead role here but this film eventually becomes a showcase for the Oscar-nominated Taraji P. Henson. Henson plays Terri, a mother of two young children who is eventually targeted by Colin. Henson brings a guarded vulnerability to her role, which she displays when Colin, a mysterious stranger, appears on her doorstep in the pouring rain and asks to use her phone (his car broke down, he says).
The script by Aimee Lagos unfortunately falters in its creation of complex characters and leaves Elba and Henson with little intelligence to work with. Aside from a scene showing Elba attempting to convince Terri’s friend Meg (Leslie Bibb) that he’s having an affair with Terri, there’s little for him to do here except wait for his moment to explode in rage.
As for Henson, her often-clueless Terri is constantly airing her personal life story to a stranger she’s never seen before. Her story includes her work as a prosecutor trying to convict abusive and murderous men who had committed domestic violence (of course!). Unlike on television, she notes in all of the subtlety this movie can offer, “Most killers aren’t that smart or clever.” Oh yeah, he seems to be thinking as she drones on. She even talks tangentially about how since she’s been married, she hasn’t been as fierce as she was previously.
“I just miss my own fire,” she says. Seriously.
At some point along the way, Colin erupts showing both Meg and Terri how psychotic he truly is. The feature then offers up a few unmemorable and repetitive scenes where innocent bystanders come close to realizing Colin’s flaws before he murders them easily. The movie also repeats itself when Terri, in her fierce moments of defiance, attacks Colin and runs away only to be captured once again.
For an eighty-four minute feature, this movie sure does repeat itself a lot.
Even the trailers for the film speak about its big twist at the end and the studio releasing the film even cancelled its advance screenings because the twist was that important and should not be spoiled. I won’t spoil the twist— which is a mild one, to say the least—but I will note that it did little to change my lack of appreciation for the film. No Good Deed is a feature that strives to be smarter than the typical home invasion movie but ends up coming far short. Henson delivers a believable and three-dimensional performance but the script is as one-dimensional and simplistic as it sounds.
Review by: John Hanlon