Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan) is a photographer who could be doing better at his job, not that he's not talented, it's more that he is reluctant to sell out as his stepfather wants him to and go commercial. Therefore he has another job to pay the bills, where he valet parks cars that visit a restaurant in town, along with his friend Derek (Carlito Olivero), though they have developed a sideline to supplement their income: they use Satnav to take the cars back to the owners' homes and rob them. Nothing huge, just enough to get away with, and it is working out fairly well for them, though they wish for a big break to come along and generate a real windfall. Maybe tonight...
Bad Samaritan was not the first feature film directed by Dean Devlin after he branched out from screenwriting and producing to take the helm of his own projects, but since the first time he tried it he came up with the painful flop Geostorm, expectations were none too high. Perhaps recognising he had overstretched himself by attempting a blockbuster of the kind he had previously done very well with, instead he dialled it back to direct a script by Brandon Boyce, a smaller scale thriller with no science fictional or fantastical elements which seemed on the surface to be a big step down from what he had been conjuring up before: no major stars, no huge setpieces, no visual effects.
But if you were more likely to see this at home than in a cinema, then maybe that underestimation which came with it was to its benefit, because the general viewer would not have high hopes for what looked like a variation on the Saw sequels, and they had not exactly been classics for the ages in themselves. The biggest star here was David Tennant, more a television lead than a movie one, but recently he had appeared in the Marvel series Jessica Jones and had put in a surprisingly effective turn as a complete bastard of a bad guy, demonstrating his range and the possibilities for him to play vicious villains, which was more or less what he was requested to do here.
This was one of those rich versus poor thrillers where the nasties were wealthy and powerful and could afford to throw away mobile phones after using them just the once, and the poor were struggling to get by therefore resorted to lawbreaking to keep their heads above water, and in that were vulnerable to exploitation by a more manipulative character. Not that Sean and Derek's scam was allowed to let them off the hook when they encounter a far more vile criminal, indeed it was the reason they were punished by a storyline that served as a moralistic lesson for them both and anyone in the audience, you know the sort of warning state of affairs that was at the heart of an awful lot of the more sadistic brand of horror or thriller. This was not really a horror, though it flirted with that genre throughout.
What happens is that Tennant's Cale Erendreich (with American accent) pulls up outside the restaurant in his flash car and acts as arrogant as only a man who knows he can pull any strings he wants can do. This marks him out as a perfect, guilt-free target and off Sean goes to his lavish country house to help himself, but after finding a credit card he also stumbles across a locked door. Fetching the key, he enters to find a computer, but as he is rubbing his hands with glee at the possibilities, he is horrified to see the office also contains a gagged and bound woman (Kerry Condon). There's the dilemma: does he go to the police and expose himself as a thief they would be very interested in arresting, all for the sake of saving the captive, or does he back away and let others help - or let her die? As this resolved itself into a series of sequences where the villain made life Hell for increasingly regretful Sean, it might not have been startlingly original, but it was suitably tense and worth your two hours. Music by Joseph LoDuca.