By Bill Wine
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Lest No Good Deed go unpunished, let's cut to the chase: No Good Deed is one bad movie.
No Good Deed is a clunky suspense chiller about a former district attorney named Terri, played by Taraji P. Henson, now a housebound mother of two young kids in suburban Atlanta who answers her door one stormy evening to a stranger in need.
Idris Elba plays Colin, the stranger knocking on her door ostensibly because his car has run off the road. He's stranded in a torrential downpour and he needs to use the phone.
Now we've already met this stranger before because the movie opens at his parole hearing so we know that he's a psychopathic felon. He's described as a "malignant narcissist" and is denied parole, but he escapes with ridiculous ease during his transfer. Then he calls on his estranged ex and exacts a revenge on her than has us cowering in his presence for the rest of the movie.
But back to Terri, who, against her better judgment – what with her two small children settling in for a night's sleep and her inattentive husband away for a weekend golfing trip -- opens the door, plays the good Samaritan, and lets escaped convict Colin in.
Colin proceeds to threaten, terrorize, and kidnap not only her but her children as well.
Director Sam Miller (Among Giants, Elephant Juice) -- most of whose background is in television, including helming episodes of Luther starring Elba -- works from a script by Aimee Lagos (96 Minutes), who, along with Elba and Henson, served as executive producers.
You would think that at least one of them, let alone all three, would have noticed that the story being told makes no sense in its present form. If it ever did, whatever was edited out left narrative gaps that you could drive a car through.
As for the twist being trumpeted in the ads, whether it's a surprise or not, it has no real bearing and doesn't help the film to make sense.
Henson and Elba have done strong work in various genre, the former earning an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 2008 for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button after impressing in 2005's Hustle & Flow , the latter starring or co-starring in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Pacific Rim, and Thor: The Dark World last year alone.
But the actors are soundly defeated by a script that gets more ludicrous as it proceeds – there doesn't seem to be anybody at all at the wheel in the third act -- and has no internal logic whatsoever: the two main characters behave arbitrarily and do whatever the plot needs them to.
And just in case this deeply unpleasant generic exercise in domestic violence isn't off-putting enough, the makers have included plenty of moments of children in jeopardy.
So let's intrude upon 1 star out of 4 for a dreadful, exploitative home-invasion thriller. No Good Deed is no good indeed.
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