Mega blockbuster producer Dean Devlin takes his second stab at directing with Bad Samaritan, a slick abduction horror thriller that starts out with a near-flawless first half but unfortunately loses steam in the home stretch. Despite flaws, the film is entertaining with David Tennant enjoying himself as the creepy killer. Sony brings Bad Samaritan to Blu-ray with a solid A/V presentation and a few decent bonus features. It may not be the greatest thing ever made, but it was fun and well Worth A Look.
"It's not really an either-or situation. You're next, and you get to watch."
Whether you're judging a film by the key art or its cadre of actors, producers, writers, or directors you establish your expectations. When I heard about Bad Samaritan, a horror/thriller starring a former Doctor Who from director Dean Devlin (the man who shares responsibility for such gems as the 90s Godzilla and Geostorm), my expectations were understandably a bit on the low side. Color me surprised to say that the film is actually kinda good! The first half is practically perfect, with a terrific turn from Robert Sheehan as a burglar who accidentally tries to rob the house from hell. Unfortunately, the film overextends itself and forgoes effective simplicity for slick techno-nonsense.
Living in Portland, Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan) is a skilled photographer without a rudder. Instead of taking professional work, he runs a scam with his pal Derek (Carlito Olivero) running simple home burglaries out of their restaurant valet stand. Take the keys, find out where they live, grab a couple choice items, small untraceable baubles and then get out. A dull night gets exciting when Cale Erendreich (David Tennant) pulls up in his Maserati. Figuring they've pegged the score of the night, Sean runs Cale's home only to realize he's robbing the wrong man when he finds a young woman (Kerry Condon) beaten, gagged, and chained to a chair.
When you think Dean Devlin you inevitably tie that name to Roland Emmerich and such schlocky blockbusters as Independence Day and Stargate and maybe Universal Soldier if you're a classic Van Damm fan. You don't immediately think of a small scale horror thriller. Leave it to me to be surprised when Bad Samaritan got going and it was actually turning into a halfway decent movie. The film was taking its time, establishing the main character, making him likable in spite of his side criminal activities, and ultimately making him someone to care for. Then David Tennant shows up channeling a rude and arrogant but sorta entertaining version of Kilgrave from Jessica Jones. When Robert Sheehan finds Kerry Condon, the film quickly switches gears into a tense horror thriller that gets your blood pumping. If only it could have stayed that way.
Like I said, the film's opening half is practically perfect, especially for a low budget horror thriller with a simple premise of a home invasion gone terribly wrong. Making the burglars the good guys isn't unique -- it was used to good effect with Don't Breathe -- but Bad Samaritan had some likable mojo working for it so I didn't mind the similarities. And man, once the film went full horror thriller, that first jump scare was of the true "Son-of-a-bitch!" spill your popcorn variety with some more edge of your seat tension to follow.
Unfortunately, the last half doesn't hold up. It gets too complicated with Tennant's character having all of these app-enabled devices. He triggers a bomb in a stove with the power control app on his phone. He seriously has an app to control the power for his Evil Dead cabin on top of being tech-savvy enough to hack computers, plant evidence, and systematically destroy Sean's life. Underdeveloped characters also make giant logic leaps, and the motivation for Tennant to be kidnapping and torturing women is almost laughable. It stretches just a tad too far for its own good.
I will give credit to Devlin and company for trying to give a new spin on an old story. It may have gotten away from them a little bit but it helps that the cast is committed. Robert Sheehan delivers a terrific performance as Sean, a desperate kid stuck in a bad situation. His best moments are when he's trying to do the right thing and no one will believe him. Tennant steals the show as he's clearly having a gas as Erendreich. He may be a tad too comical to be truly menacing at times, but he goes full out and you can appreciate the effort. And leave it to Kerry Condon to deliver the film's best line, injecting the right amount of humor into a tense situation.
While I do have some gripes with Bad Samaritan, ultimately I found myself surprisingly entertained by it. I dearly wish the second half was as strong and smart as the opening, but overall it's a good ride. If you find yourself scrolling around or see a copy for cheap, it's worth taking a gander at. Don't set your expectations too high, it's just good entertainment.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Bad Samaritan arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures in a single disc Blu-ray set. Pressed onto a Region A BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard snapper Blu-ray case. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
Bad Samaritan enjoys a robust 1080p 2.39:1 transfer. Shot digitally, the film offers up some spotless and beautiful scenic shots of Portland and the surrounding area. Details are crystal clear with few artifacts to speak of. Some shots here and there exhibit a bit of video noise, but they're relatively minor occurrences. Colors are strong, maintaining the drab wintery Portland setting while allowing for some good primaries to pop. The yellow street lamps outside the restaurant cast some great colors against the rain-soaked streets. Reds and blues also come through nicely. Black levels are strong throughout with some great inky deeps, but they get a little hazy in the Evil Dead cabin location. Whites and contrast are spot-on without any blooming. The film's climax in the snowy forest is striking at times. All around, this is a very impressive transfer that suits the film's style and dreary location.
Leave it to a pretty solid DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix to serve up some of the best jumps for Bad Samaritan. When the film is really clicking and the tension is just amping up, the mix offers a terrific balance of atmosphere, sound effects, and silence. Granted, the whole movie isn't always that pitch-perfect, but this mix handles the workload nicely. Dialogue is clean and clear without any troubles. Scoring and sound effects are well spaced and lend to the imaging of the mix without overpowering or making things sound too cluttered. There are a couple stretches where it doesn't seem as though sides are engaged and the mix stays Front/Center, but when it counts there is plenty of surround activity and presence. All around, a solid track.
Surprisingly enough, there is actually a halfway decent assortment of bonus features here. The commentary track is a great listen and the deleted scenes offer a little context for some spots that would have been nice to see -- but they also show the film's skilled editing as they completely deleted a silly and needless "happy ending" sequence.
Audio Commentary featuring director Dean Devlin and writer Brandon Boyce.
Deleted Scenes (HD 8:59)
A movie doesn't always have to be the greatest thing ever made to be entertaining. Bad Samaritan is not a great film, but it is a good one -- especially the first half. A solid by the book horror thriller, the film's cast save some simplistic plot contrivances from cascading into complete absurdity. Robert Sheehan and David Tennant make the movie, delivering performances that outpace the sometimes lacking script. It may not be amazing, but Bad Samaritan is certainly good popcorn entertainment. Sony Pictures brings Bad Samaritan to Blu-ray with a solid all-around A/V presentation and a couple of worthwhile bonus features. If you want something uncomplicated that won't disappoint, this one is Worth A Look.