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Letting the Wrong One In: “No Good Deed”

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Image Credit: Screen Gems

A home invasion is one of the most terrifying crimes to endure. Returning to a burglarized home after a vacation feels like a violation. The only balm for this kind of wound is the knowledge that your loved ones weren’t home when it happened. A home invasion during a storm while your spouse is away and your children are trying to rest can destroy all the feeling of safety you worked years to build.

Screen Gems’ new crime thriller No Good Deed takes this concept and runs with it, showing us a situation that could easily play out in today’s media. The story opens with a news reporter informing the audience that Colin Evans, played by Idris Elba, is up for parole five years after murdering a man in a bar–fight. Evans is also suspected of murdering five young women but it wasn’t proven. Elba really underplays the character as a cool customer but that changes during his parole hearing when one of the officials pegs Evans as a malignant narcissist who goes into a rage when he doesn’t get his way. His parole is denied and he’s on his way back to prison but he won’t be deterred.  Evans uses a nosebleed as a distraction to kill his transporters and escape. He surprises his ex-girlfriend Alexis (Kate del Castillo) in their home and murders her after she confesses moving on with another man. Elba’s played violent and ruthless characters but Colin Evans is simply a brutal man under a charming facade.

Former District Attorney Teri Granger (Taraji P. Henson) is now a full–time mom managing her household as a storm approaches. Her husband, Jeffrey, is also a lawyer but he’s distant and more interested in a golfing trip with his father than his family. The timing of the golfing trip, right before a storm, is a flag that something is amiss but Teri is too stressed to catch. Her best friend, Meg (Leslie Bibb), decides that some girl–time is in order and they resolve to hang out that evening. Evans crashes his car during the storm and ends up at Teri’s, who soon realizes that she’s invited a madman into her home.

This film was difficult to watch. The actors provided solid performances but weak writing drags it down. Elba plays Colin Evans with charm and hidden menace but the rest of the cast traded the Idiot Ball at crucial points to prolong the story. Only Meg, a real estate agent, bothered digging deeper than the flimsy cover story Evans provided, calling him out on his lack of information. Evans gets a few lucky breaks to keep his lies intact long enough to start his attack on Teri and her children. Evans isn’t interested in assaulting Teri but more on making her play his “game”.

One plus side to the movie is that Teri doesn’t stop fighting her attacker. She picks her moments and, bit by bit, wears him down enough to even up the fight at the climax. Evans is a tough individual so the idea of Teri simply fighting him hand-to-hand without an equalizer is foolish. The Idiot Ball makes its way into Evans’ hands to provide a set of circumstances in which the pair have a physical fight without Teri losing outright.

The downfall of the film comes from the situation itself. Evans’ personality is spelled out in the opening scenes but he charms people into trusting him right before he attacks, even those who know his methods. The action sequences are thrilling but the finished product will bother anyone sensitive to domestic violence or the abuse of women. The standard tropes of a distant husband, a charismatic stranger and neglected housewife converge to give us poorly–developed characters that don’t connect with the audience. By the time the film is over, the obligatory Hollywood ending doesn’t matter. It’s enough that the movie is over.

The Verdict: Don’t bother with this one folks. Even the DVD won’t make it worthwhile.

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