DVD REVIEW: NO GOOD DEED / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: SAM MILLER / SCREENPLAY: AIMEE LAGOS / STARRING: IDRIS ELBA, TARAJI P. HENSON, LESLIE BIBB, KATE DEL CASTILLO / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 23RD
It is with open arms that we belatedly welcome Idris Elba in to the blood-soaked annuls of serial killer history. Belatedly because an actor who exudes such brooding menace and intoxicating charisma playing characters on the right side of the law was surely born to play a multiple murderer; and in Sam Miller’s No Good Deed he does just that. More’s the pity then that the film doesn’t quite live up to the talents of Elba and of those around him.
After escaping from a prison transport having had his parole application refused, Colin (Elba) seeks out and murders his ex-girlfriend for what he sees as an ongoing betrayal. When he then crashes his car during a monsoon-like downpour he seeks the help of Terry (Henson), a young mother of two left home alone for the weekend when her unappreciative husband goes away on a golfing trip. Ingratiating himself into the home of the unsuspecting Terry, Colin begins to enjoy a few long-awaited home comforts.
No Good Deed is a stylishly designed and well executed film that contains all the components required to produce a superior thriller. There is the highly atmospheric weather; rain that seems to enclose the home making it feel claustrophobic and isolated. There are a few routine but effective jumps that will draw many, if not all, viewers to the edge of their seats and keep them there throughout the middle and final acts. There is a palpable tension between the two leads, a hint of unspoken sexual chemistry that may cloud a character’s otherwise strongly rational judgement, leading to unpredictable and uncomfortable situations. And there are excellent central performances, with Elba effortlessly switching into bad guy mode and Henson matching him blow for blow in a role that is thankfully much more than just routine unfortunate victim. So if everything seems to be here, why doesn’t it work?
Part of the problem is that everything feels just a little too familiar. Home invasion of one form or another is currently a popular theme for filmmakers, so unless there is something entirely ground-breaking in a film most of what you see has been done before. The strong female character of Terry is good to see but unfortunately this strength seems balanced by Colin’s peculiar, and somewhat stupid trait, of turning his back on her every five minutes so she can bash him over the head with whatever heavy implement is to hand. This undermines the killer’s malevolent intelligence and almost has you shouting “she’s behind you!” at the darkly lit screen.
There is also the question of Terry actually letting Colin into her home so readily. Initial cagey suspicion quickly gives way to giggling flirtation over a bottle of wine, and while questions can be asked of most films’ plot twists, here the story isn’t engaging enough to allow them to pass by without a second thought. For the premise to work this must happen and here it never quite convinces.
It is reasonable to have expected more from Miller and Elba, who were behind so many of the best Luther episodes. As it goes, No Good Deed is a competent, if undemanding thriller that while interesting during viewing may quickly find its way to the back of the DVD shelf. There are occasional diamonds to be found in the straight-to-DVD rough, but unfortunately this isn’t one. Decent, just not good enough.
Special Features: Making a Thriller featurette / Interview with Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson
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