Film Review: Bad Samaritan

In this tightly constructed thriller, a stone-cold sociopath is pitted against a small-time grifter who rediscovers his long-neglected moral compass.
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Portland, Oregon: Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan) and his best friend, Derek Sandoval (Carlito Olivero), have devised a clever way to supplement their salaries as parking valets at an upscale Italian restaurant. They borrow patrons' cars, hit the GPS for "home" and do a little pilfering—the nicer the car, the better the pickings are likely to be.

Enter Cale Erendreich (David Tennant), an arrogant bundle of barely suppressed rage and contempt in a silver Maserati sports car. It's Sean's turn to go, and while it's clear from first glance that he's in the home of a rich, single guy who wants for nothing, there's a room with a heavy-duty lock he's convinced is where the good stuff is. Sean is, of course, very, very wrong: The room is a dungeon, containing a battered young woman (Kerry Condon) who's gagged, in leather restraints and chained to a chair. Sean's impulse is to try to help her escape, but fear of getting caught—not just for this break-in, but for all the times he and Derek have helped themselves to other people's stuff—ultimately wins out and he hightails it back to the restaurant.

Still, Sean's nagging conscience forces him do the right thing: He calls the police…who find nothing, because Erendreich isn't just a sociopath. He's a smart sociopath with a lot of money, backup plans and security cameras, so he knows exactly who was in his house of horrors.

A psychological thriller with emphasis on the psycho, Bad Samaritan isn't exactly plausible, though, to be fair, the more you know about spectacularly appalling real crimes, the more apparent it becomes that some truly horrible people get away with doing very bad things for a very long time, including kidnapping and imprisoning women in basements and spare rooms and boxes.

Producer/director Dean Devlin and screenwriter Brandon Boyce understand structure, pacing and audience expectations, and Irish actor Sheehan (who also appeared in Devlin's 2017 Geostorm) makes Sean convincingly appealing—yes, he's a petty thief and he's made a good start on a life of chronic underachievement, but he toes the moral line when he comes up against it. Sean can justify stealing a rich jerk's credit card, but he can't rationalize pretending he never saw a bound, gagged and viciously bruised girl in a room whose dominant feature was a custom-built cage.

While Tennant's Erendreich isn't particularly subtle, he's gauntly and effectively creepy in a Norman Bates-meets-Charlie Sheen way. And kudos for the pervasive equine imagery, which neatly ties into Erendreich's methods and motives without being pedantic: Never has the rarified term "dressage" sounded so very menacing.

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