The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Bad Samaritan

Bad Samaritan was completely off my radar until just a couple days ago. I'd never seen a trailer, never seen a TV or online ad, never heard the title spoken. The low-budget production which doesn't come from a major studio or even a recognizable indie distributor arrives without much advance publicity. For that reason, I walked in having no clue what to expect, aside from a one-sentence synopsis I looked up on IMDb. Maybe if I'd had some pre-release expectations my reaction would have been different. Maybe if I'd seen it on another day this week I would have felt very differently about the film. All I can say is that, on the day that I did see Bad Samaritan, with no inkling of what it would be, I enjoyed the heck out of this cheerily implausible little underdog of a thriller.

Set in Portland, Oregon, the story follows Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan), a slacker who works as a valet at a fancy restaurant. While the patrons dine, he and his best friend Derek (former X Factor contestant Carlito Olivero) take turns driving their cars to their houses and stealing things. One evening, Sean drives the expensive Maserati of Cale Erendreich (David Tennant) to his lush home, where he discovers a young woman, Katie (Kerry Condon), bound, gagged, and tortured in the man's office. He is unable to rescue her, despite his best efforts. Cale quickly discovers evidence of Sean's intrusion, then sets out to silence him.

There's a decent hook in Bad Samaritan: Sean only knows that Katie is being held captive because he broke into Cale's house. That makes approaching the authorities tricky, as it would also implicate Derek, who acted as lookout. Since Cale is able to rapidly identify the intruder into his home, a cat-and-mouse game is easily established, with Sean trying to find a way to save Katie before she meets whatever grisly fate she is slated for, and before Cale can snuff him out.

That set-up is sufficiently interesting to sink its teeth into you, which is good, because what follows is a series of inconsistent plot twists. Some of them are genuinely surprising. Others are fairly routine for the genre. A couple are downright preposterous, with one in particular nearly evoking unintentional laughter from me. Then again, North By Northwest ended with Cary Grant dangling from Mount Rushmore, so being a little crazy isn't automatically a detriment.

The thing about Bad Samaritan is that it's clearly having fun with itself. Director Dean Devlin and screenwriter Brandon Boyce know what they want their movie to be, namely a decent-guy-caught-in-a-deadly-nightmare thriller that adds some new layer to the danger every few minutes. This is not intended to be great art, but rather solid escapist entertainment the kind of picture that lets you forget about the outside world for two hours and have fun imagining what you would do in the lead character's situation. And you know what? It works in that sense. Even though it grows less believable as it goes on, I really didn't care because I was simply enjoying the movie on its own terms.

Good performances help tremendously. Sheehan proves to be a sympathetic hero, showing how Sean's flaws exist not because he's a bad person, but because he's a follower rather than a leader. Tennant, meanwhile, manages to avoid the usual psycho cliches, suggesting that a flaw in temperament is responsible for Cale's twisted behavior. (The script offers up a delightfully cuckoo backstory for him anyway.) Olivero and Condon do good supporting work, adding to the overall impact. Even when most straining credibility, we care about the characters due to the cast's commitment.

Bad Samaritan doesn't have the same unrelenting tension that the thematically-similar Don't Breathe does, and, in all honesty, I can't say I'll remember much if you ask me about it next year at this time. Not that it matters. If you're in the mood right now for a nifty, unassuming little thriller that will hold your interest, Bad Samaritan fits the bill just fine.

( out of four)

Bad Samaritan is rated R for violence, language throughout, some drug use and brief nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 51 minutes.

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