‘Bad Samaritan’ is an entertaining mess

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Before a restaurant’s valet (Robert Sheehan)  parks client’s cars, he and his partner (Carlito Olivero) sneak off to rob their houses. He discovers something he wasn’t supposed to see, putting him in direct crosshairs with a dangerous psychopath (David Tennant). Now he has to stay out of the hands of a brutal monster, while trying to fix one mistake that will haunt him.

AlexFlix

“Bad Samaritan” is the kind of movie that actively works against itself but somehow still manages to work. The plot is all over the place, unable to pick a genre it likes and manage to stick with it. Much like Tennant’s American accent, the film is all over the place. Lots of dialogue comes off awkward and impersonal. Yet the film has a brisk pace that never bores, and delivers on the suspense that’s needed from it.

“Bad Samaritan” certainly starts slow and almost misleadingly. Most classic horror films usually start with an opening scene to prepare the viewer of what’s to come, and many times is much better than the actual film. Think “Halloween” or “It Follows”.

“Bad Samaritan” certainly tries this with its opening, while useful backstory of its main antagonist doesn’t really fit as “Bad Samaritan” isn’t a horror film. Sometimes. It’s a drama. Sometimes. It certainly tries to be both of these, but never at the same time, leaving the overall feeling of the film patchy.

‘Bad Samaritan’ is a film that shouldn’t be enjoyable, but just manages to be. ”

— Alex Smith, Movie Critic

It starts off with the intention of being like a suspense thriller/horror film, but changes to be more a character drama halfway through. The problem is that is keeps trying to be more, at one point being a crime drama about a rookie FBI agent who has a theory she’s been fighting for against an unsympathetic department head, and at another point is a relationship drama that never bothers with a payoff. The film’s short runtime and fast pace usually don’t let time for this to sit either, immediately setting off to the next phase.

The plot is pretty simple. There’s never any twist or turns, any grand ideas, or greater purpose. The characters are largely one-dimensional and the cinematography is stock standard. But none of that really matters. This is a low budget film created and marketed by an indie company who wanted to make an entertaining film, and they certainly did. The film’s saving grace doesn’t really come from any of that unimportant stuff, like plot, pacing, or anything like that. It comes from David Tennant being a fun actor to watch. He’s been a villain before in the Netflix series “Jessica Jones”, where he was immensely charming and fun to watch for such a horrid character, and while he’s not nearly as well used here he does a good job.

The problem with his performance in “Bad Samaritan” is that as an actor he’s largely held back by his own character. He’s forced into doing an American accent, that changes every other scene, he’s given restricting dialogue, and he’s never really given the opportunity to go all out in anger either. Worst of all, the writers try to saddle him down with a backstory last minute. In every monster movie, the monster becomes less threatening when they are explained. The same can sometimes be said for characters like Tennant’s. Or at least they don’t need to be openly explained. It’s hinted out earlier on in the film and through context clues later on, and that’s really all that’s needed. Give the audience enough to speculate for themselves, and if they can’t exactly figure it out then that’s okay, as it’s not important to enjoying the character, but when it’s fully explained it has little value.

“Bad Samaritan” is a film that shouldn’t be enjoyable, but just manages to be. It’s not a film that has any lasting power, but it’s not one that want to. It’s an entertaining film that manages to have some nice suspenseful scenes and is better than the stock standard Blumhouse Production suspense film trash, so for that it deserves some praise.