“No Good Deed” is the kind of movie Wes Craven’s “Scream” made fun of. You’d think with Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson headlining this movie that it would be more than just your average thriller/horror flick, but instead it is shamelessly predictable and full of characters making idiotic decisions that easily defy logic on any given day. I figured filmmakers had long since grown tired of insulting the audience’s intelligence, but that’s not the case here.
Elba plays Colin Evan who, as the movie starts, is heading over to his parole hearing. Colin was convicted of a vicious assault several years before, and he basically tells the parole board that he is a changed man and won’t make the same mistakes. Clearly, Colin never got around to watching “The Shawshank Redemption” as Morgan Freeman did the same thing and got denied each time, so it’s no surprise when his parole gets denied. As a result, he viciously murders the police officers assigned to take him back to prison and he escapes out into the open with ulterior motives that will eventually become clear.
Cut to a few hours later when the rain is pouring down like crazy, and Colin finds himself knocking on the door of Terri’s (Henson) home. Terri used to be an assistant district attorney, but she has since become a stay-at-home mom to her two children. When she opens the door to find Colin telling her he was in a car accident and asks to use her phone. She promises to help him but is smart enough not to let him inside but for some reason this doesn’t stop her from leaving the front door wide open! From there I knew we were in trouble as “No Good Deed” has characters doing things that will have the audience screaming out, “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!”
Okay, I’ll give Henson some credit as she does give some credibility to the moment when Terri finally lets Colin inside. She doesn’t just let him in right off the bat, and her concern for his well-being becomes understandable thanks to cut on his head and the fear of him catching pneumonia. But everything that happens afterwards seems completely ripped off from a thousand other thrillers and slasher movies which weren’t good to begin with. The phone gets cut off, all the steak knives mysteriously disappear, and it’s almost a relief when Terri realizes just how dangerous Colin is. Of course, those actions led me to wonder how Colin could pull that off while Terri isn’t looking. Furthermore, how de he manage to be in so many places at the same time? Last I heard, a group of scientists are looking into the issue, but I doubt they will have an answer anytime soon.
Terri ends up telling Colin, long before she discovers how nasty of a sociopath he is, that her work as an assistant district attorney allowed her to learn about how the criminal mind works, and from there we know that she will be able to outwit him on a psychological level. I quickly became annoyed at how the screenplay was setting these things up to where you know how everything is going to pay off. “No Good Deed” doesn’t take long to become an exercise in complete futility, and it ended up inspiring a lot of unintentional laughter from the audience I saw it with.
Look, there’s no denying that Elba is an awesome actor with a charismatic presence most people would kill for. Seeing him play a mentally unstable convict is very appealing prospect as this is the same actor who gave life to the obsessive police detective John Luther on the BBC One series “Luther.” For a while, Elba succeeds in making Colin not just another threatening antagonist as he attempts to add dimensions to the character to make him more interesting and memorable. At the movie’s start, Elba is truly a threatening menace who keeps us on the edge of our seats while we nervously anticipate when and where he will strike next. But as it goes on, we get the feeling that screenwriter Aimee Lagos began to lose interest in making this vicious bad guy stand out among so many others, and Colin soon becomes just another one-dimensional villain which all but wastes Elba’s considerable talent.
As for Henson, she’s given us one memorable performance after another in “Baby Boy,” “Hustle and Flow” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and it’s no surprise that she matches Elba scene for scene. Still, even she isn’t able to lift “No Good Deed” out of the clichés which all but wreck it. She does solid work here, but since we know more or less the kind of character she’s playing, we know very early on how everything is going to end up for her. At the movie’s end, Terri’s victory feels empty and I found myself just rolling my eyes at the screen.
Seriously, there are way too many scenes in “No Good Deed” that defy all belief. Terri has a chance to get help from a police officer, and you want to smack that officer really hard when he doesn’t act quickly enough. This is also one of those movies where the killer looks to be dead and then ends up springing back to life for one more ridiculously cheap scare. We also get introduced to one of Terri’s friends, Meg (played by Leslie Bibb), who proves to be ridiculously crass as she compares dating men to going to the gym in that she doesn’t use the same equipment two days in a row. Oh, and we soon discover that Meg is a realtor which means she knows whether or not Colin lives in the neighborhood. Guess what happens to her?
Elba and Henson are listed as executive producers on “No Good Deed,” but I came out of it thinking that those were just vanity titles. Did they have any say over the movie’s moronically predictable screenplay? I imagine that if they did, the movie would have been far better than it was. Instead, we get just another forgettable thriller that dares to believe it is smarter than its audience (it isn’t). For these two actors, I can’t help but think that was merely a paycheck movie for them, and hopefully that will keep their bank accounts solid while they look for other projects far more deserving of their talents.
No good deed goes unpunished, and neither does this movie. Considering the talent involved, this is a huge disappointment and it easily ranks as one of the worst films of 2014. You like Idris Elba so much? Do yourself a favor and watch episodes of “Luther” or see him kick monster butt in “Pacific Rim.” Those movies are a better use of your time instead of attempting to sit through this tired and brain dead old thriller.