Dir. by Sam Miller - 1 hr. 24 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
"No Good Deed" is the very definition of "product." I'm not going to hold that against the film; if there's a choice between competent creative people doing work and getting paid for it, and them just sitting around doing nothing, I'm okay with those people staying busy and keeping their skills sharp. The key, however, is that they're keeping those skills sharp for use on other projects. A funny aside - I kept referring to this film as "Bad Luther," so much so that when I went to the theatre I had a hard time remembering the real title of the film. That what happens when you have a generic, forgettable title!
Colin Evans (Idris Elba) is a bad man; he's presumed to be responsible for the deaths of five women, but since they couldn't prove any of those, he went to prison for killing a man in a bar fight for looking at his woman. Five years deep, he has a shot at parole, which is shot down, so he escapes from his transport back to prison, and heads straight for his ex, Alexis (Kate del Castillo). Turns out, she wasn't as true to Colin as Colin would have preferred, so Colin teaches her one final, fatal lesson. He leaves the scene, but wrecks his car on a rainy night. The nearest house (and it's a giant, awesome house) belongs to Terri (Taraji P. Henson) and her husband, and their two small children. Colin charms his way into the house, under the guise of calling a tow truck, and tension hangs in the air!
Probably the best thing that I could say about "No Good Deed" is that, although the cast was predominantly black (I was going to say African-American, but Idris Elba is British, and I've already used up my weekly allotment of hyphens), the story didn't depend on that in any way. Literally anyone could have been cast in these roles, from any background, and the casting decisions held up just fine. I don't even know if that was the intent or if everyone got lucky with good performances; it feels like Idris Elba should be above that sort of themed casting. He was Nelson Mandela, for crying out loud. Then again, this is product, and you use whatever angles are available to sell unremarkable films.
But that's not really a strong endorsement for "No Good Deed." What's better about the casting is that Idris Elba gets to hang out in his wheelhouse for an hour and a half; brood, be handsome, and project a dominant physical presence on screen. This wasn't necessarily a challenging role for him, but if you're a big Elba fan, I think you'll get your money's worth from him. Also, the target of Colin, Taraji P. Henson, holds her own, and is enjoyable to watch. Unfortunately, all of this is in service to a plot that is literally Idris Elba away from being a Lifetime movie. Aside from one clever turn near the end of the film, this is a paint-by-numbers experience. You know the second the plot pieces start revealing themselves exactly how this is going to play out. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but you'll figure it out for yourself about twenty minutes in how things must unfold in order not to be one of the most depressing films you'd ever see.
"Bad Luther" is a better title for "No Good Deed." It's accurate, and you'd know what you were in for. Here are reasons you should see "No Good Deed": someone gets whomped in the face with a shovel, Idris Elba is shirtless for a little bit, Taraji P. Henson is pretty cute (although I was sad when they straightened her hair out at the end - I liked the curls better) and likable, and that's about it. I'm not going to get mad if you want to see this - I watch wrestling, so there is no available moral high ground. So if you are a smart, empowered lady who likes those "bad guy tormenting women" kind of Lifetime fare, but wish it was Idris Elba in the film instead of some doofus who can barely deliver lines but looks great without a shirt (or some barely-employed '80s sitcom actor messing with all of your childhood television paternal memories), grab a bottle of wine, get some fantasy material churning, and knock yourself out.
1.5 / 5 - Theatre