The Bock’s Office: ‘No Good Deed’ has good acting but no good suspense
September 18, 2014
Steamboat Springs — We all have the urge to play the Good Samaritan for people in times of trouble. Even so, you know what they say about "No Good Deed," and the movie of the same name isn't going to inspire you to have faith in that lonesome hitchhiker on the side of the road any more than you did before.
If you go…
"No Good Deed," rated PG-13
Rating: 2 out of 4 stars
Running time: 84 minutes
Starring: Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson, Leslie Bibb and Henry Simmons
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
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On a dark and stormy night, Terri Granger (Taraji P. Henson) is anticipating nothing more than putting her kids to bed and enjoying a girls' evening with her best friend (Leslie Bibb).
That swiftly changes when she finds a stranger named Collin (Idris Elba) on her porch. His claims that he's just wrecked his car and needs to use the phone sound innocent enough, so she cautiously invites him to wait out the bad weather inside.
The mystery man proves to be somewhat of a charmer, but the more she talks to him, the less his story makes sense, and Terri remains unaware of the fact that Collin is an escaped convict.
When her guest's intentions become clear, Terri does everything she can to protect herself and her children to no avail. But, Collin may have something else in mind than the typical home invader.
Elba is agreeably frightening as the inmate jailed for at least one murder and suspected of plenty others, his guiltless homicidal nature apparent not long after he busts out of a vehicular transport. His size helps, but it's the actor's ability to shift seamlessly between serene sweet-talker and menacing brute that makes him even more intimidating.
Henson's Terri also has a dual nature as a woman who once took no guff as a lawyer whose vulnerabilities have been exposed little by little as a mother and homemaker with a strained relationship with her husband (Henry Simmons). Still, no matter your problems, it's probably best not to open up too much to the guy at your door with a cut on his head and no real explanation for being in your neighborhood.
As Terri's friend, Meg, Bibb isn't fooled by this unannounced visitor, though her misreading of the situation as being a romantic dalliance doesn't keep her from meeting the same terrible end. You can probably take it from there.
What seems to start as a story about Collin being unjustly denied parole takes a turn quickly as we realize he's far from rehabilitated, putting more of the focus on his hostage, who brags about her former career as a defender of domestic violence victims while remaining oblivious to the kind of man sitting in her kitchen. What Terri loses in points at the onset, she regains with some smart thinking for someone in her situation.
Your cell is broken, and he cut the phone cord to prevent a 911 call? Use the fax.
He took the time to hide your knives? Grab a letter opener.
Collin's motives and the mind games he plays to get what he wants are important yet underutilized in a plot that relies on the formula of chase-catch-escape-repeat too frequently but effectively, even if the abductor in question has a Michael Myers-level pain threshold.
The story all fits together neatly enough, but you rarely feel the kind of panic you should on Terri's behalf. It’s best suited for the viewers who are already jumping out of their seats at the sound of the doorbell.
The atmosphere of "No Good Deed" is tense but not intense, making it a mediocre suspense film at best, though the interplay between what are some very broad characters save it from being worse.
But, as long as you learn the lesson "never trust anyone," then the movie's done its job.