Although I’ve never seen a single episode of Doctor Who, I’ve often heard David Tennant referred to as the “destroyer” version of the character. I’m assuming the others are more benevolent? Whatever, because of the chaotic roles Tennant has been playing of late, in particular as Killgrave in Marvel’s Jessica Jones, I can’t really see him as anything other than a psychopath. And Tennant’s twisted, unhinged performance in Bad Samaritan only goes to solidify him as a go-to guy when relentless mania is called for.
Tennant’s maddening, balls-to-the-wall performance is the chief reason to see Bad Samaritan, a B-movie thriller that marks a slight improvement for director Dean Devlin. He gave us last year’s shit storm of a disaster movie, Geostorm, but is wise enough to lean heavy on Tennant here, who is positively Nicolas Cage-like. Robert Sheehan stars as Sean Falco, a petty thief using his resteraunt valet gig as a cover for his illicit activities. Alongside his partner-in-crime Derek (Carlito Olivero), they use the GPS in their clients’ cars to locate their homes, then break in while the owners are enjoying the meal.
It’s a gig too sweet to last forever, but Sean couldn’t have known when he broke in the crib of flashy Mazerati-driving douchebag Cale Erendreich (Tennant), it would make him regret all of his poor life choices. Busting up into Cale’s home, Sean discovers a woman (Kerry Condon) bloodied and held hostage, with it becoming abundantly clear that this was not an isolated incident. Selfishly he leaves her behind, only to have a change of heart and goes back to free her, only to find that it’s going to be more difficult than he imagined because Cale knows what is happening.
Give screenwriter Brandon Boyce credit for not going the obvious route of turning this into a straight siege thriller, with Shane trying to stay alive within the madman’s home. It’s broader than that, though, as Cale goes along way in shredding what little bit of credibility Shane has, making it impossible for anyone to believe what he’s telling them about the kidnapped woman. “You reap what you sew” is a common message which Bad Samaritan relays in an uncommon way, which keeps the film interesting as you try to get over how shoddy and low-rent the whole thing looks.
Devlin’s name is probably familiar to you; it’s been attached to huge hits like Independence Day, Stargate, and The Patriot. As a director he seems to be trying to channel a trashy “so awful it’s great!!” dopey kind of vibe and he just barely succeeds here, mostly due to Tennant. He chews up scenery with gusto and keeps the Insane-O-Meter cranked up to high. From one moment to the next you never know which brand of lunacy you’re going to get, showing just how light on his feet as an actor Tennant can be.
Most likely it will be the Tennant fanatics, of which there are many, who will go out of their way to see Bad Samaritan. It has a chance to be a minor success as a result and those who do check it out will, at the very least, leave impressed by Tennant’s continued ability to play those unshackled from sanity.