It can be so hard sometimes to review a movie and not include personal opinions. Objectivity is so critical (pun mostly unintended) to giving a fair review, but every once in a while, there are those movies that elicit such intense disdain, it takes a Herculean effort to keep it from clouding your humble critic’s judgment. Thankfully, fellow audiences members of No Good Deed all very vocally echoed the same conclusion: No Good Deed just plain sucks.
Playing like a Lifetime TV-movie with less realistic dialogue and more simplistic characters, No Good Deed follows the unlikable Colin (Idris Elba), a disturbed man in the middle of a prison sentence for manslaughter, who has “malignant narcissism” – the same thing Jeffrey Dahmer had, the movie makes clear to repeatedly point out.
Five years into his prison term, Colin kills some guards and escapes, eventually ending up at the door of Terri (Taraji P. Henson) on a dark and stormy night. Showing up at her doorstep and asking to use the phone to call a tow truck, Terri decides to invite the intimidating stranger into the house, despite the fact her husband is away for the weekend and her two young children are in the house. Needless to say, the maniacal Colin slowly manipulates and torments Terri, as his malignant narcissism feeds itself.
There isn’t a shred of intelligence in the entire screenplay. Every stupid thing a character can possibly do, they do. Each character (but especially Terri) has all the reactionary problem-solving of a teenager in a pre-Scream slasher flick. Halfway through the screening your humble critic attended, the audience collectively started heckling the film, exclaiming, “Oh, come on!” and “Are you kidding me?” Several people simply walked out of the theatre.
Elba, so good in others works like Luther, Prometheus, and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, surely left teeth marks on the set from chewing so hard on the scenery. One gets the feeling his only preparation was watching Ray Liotta in Turbulence. Henson, a mere five years after being nominated for an Academy Award for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, now seems determined to be nominated for a Razzie. What could have been a strong, protective character becomes a simpering, indecisive pushover.
In the entirety of No Good Deed’s lean (yet still much too long) 85-minute running time, it’s hard to find a reason to like any of the characters that appear onscreen. Even smaller roles, like Terri’s best friend (Leslie Bibb) or an unlucky police officer, spend all their time making boneheaded choices and failing to garner a shred of sympathy.
Leaving the screening of No Good Deed, your humble critic heard one person say, “For a movie that’s not even an hour and a half, that felt like a full day at the dentist.” Frankly, extensive dental work would probably be more enjoyable. There’s not a single minute of the movie that won’t make you check your watch to see how much time is left. No Good Deed is no good movie.