There are two premises in Bad Samaritan, one that drives the plot and one that explains the villain’s motives. They are middling premises, better than some you’ve heard, less creative than others. They’re executed with average skill by director Dean Devlin, the longtime schlock writer (Independence Day, Godzilla ) who made his behind-the-camera debut with last year’s Geostorm (unseen by me but I’ll take everyone else’s word for it), working from a serviceable screenplay by Apt Pupil and Wicker Park adapter Brandon Boyce, enacted by competent performers who know their lines. In summary: This is an average thriller that passes the time but will probably soon be forgotten by everyone, including the people who made it.
In Portland, a sensitive young Irish artist named Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan) works as a fancy restaurant’s parking valet with his buddy Derek (Carlito Olivero), but the job is merely a front for their real operation: burglarizing diners’ homes while they’re here eating. Care is taken to make sure we understand that Sean only wants to engage in petty theft, nothing huge or noticeable, and that he doesn’t want to rob people who are nice, because Sean is a Good Guy.
While robbing the home of a man who is not nice — which we know because the man is talking about offshore bank accounts when he rolls up to the restaurant in his Maserati — Sean discovers something he does not encounter very often, i.e., a woman chained to a chair in the man’s home office (usually they are kept in the basement). Unable to get her free in the limited time he has, he vows to return ASAP, and even risks his own liberty by notifying the police. It is to no avail, though; the man — arrogant trust-funder Cale Erendreich (David Tennant), with all the surveillance gadgets and high-tech gizmos money can buy — figures out someone was in his house, figures out who it was, and begins a game of cat-and-mouse with Sean (and Derek a little bit, but mostly Sean).
The other premise is the explanation for Cale’s behavior, which is ordinary psycho-thriller stuff (something from his childhood) that’s teased in such a way that it sounds more intriguing than it turns out to be. That’s not great storytelling, but holding our interest for so long must count for something.
David Tennant, who gets top billing, is a hammy villain of moderate creepiness, but there’s untapped potential in a fussy, snide sociopath. (“They won’t believe that,” someone says of Cale’s plan to frame them for his crimes. “You have no idea how rich I am,” Cale responds.) Robert Sheehan, who has soulful eyes, is a fairly weak average-joe hero, ultimately not achieving much in the way of heroics, though his lack of finesse does enabled the chained-up victim (Kerry Condon) to deliver the film’s one excellent line of dialogue. The abuses heaped upon the captive girl aren’t overly sadistic or torture-porny, and Cale blessedly has no sexual interest in her. Bad Samaritan is cheap factory-produced Horror Content, not good enough to be recommendable but palatable, not bad enough to inspire hostility.