Published May 02, 2018David Tennant made a name for himself as a leading man in Broadchurch and Doctor Who, but he's found a new calling as a villain. His malicious performance in the horror-thriller Bad Samaritan follows in the spirit of his role in Jessica Jones, and he's nasty enough here that it's going to be hard to see him as a good guy ever again.
The supreme sadism of Tennant's character, wealthy serial killer Cale Erendreich, is the most compelling thing about Bad Samaritan, which suffers from a severe case of lazy storytelling. The film is set in Portland, OR which we know because one of the very first establishing shots shows a gigantic sign. From there, we meet Sean Falco (Robert Sheehan), a robber with a heart of gold who breaks into Cale's house and discovers a woman tied up in the office and a torture chamber in the garage.
He admits his crime to the police and hands over photographic evidence, which should probably be the end of the movie right there. But wait! For reasons that aren't entirely clear, the cops don't buy his story, and the rest of the movie is a struggle between Sean's quest for justice and Cale's hunger for vengeance. The message? Being a police officer is hard, and they're far too busy to deal with every Joe Schmo who comes off the street with hard evidence of a kidnapping.
Cale will stop at nothing to fuck up Sean's life, and director Dean Devlin succeeds in building tension as the baddie systematically targets our hero's friends, family and workplace. His wealth makes him an extremely resourceful antagonist, and the jump scares are cheap but effective. Despite the film's visceral appeal, however, screenwriter Brandon Boyce's script is rote — there's nothing inventive in any of Cale's schemes, there aren't any twists, and a subplot about an FBI investigation is half-baked and totally irrelevant. Don't even get me started on a wildly implausible piece of evidence obtained when a character accidentally and oh-so-conveniently hits "video call" on his phone.
A game of cat-and-mouse like this one should involve cunning. But too often, Bad Samaritan has all the cleverness of a shovel to the head — much like the shovel that the characters end up using to repeatedly hit each other. For the definitive document of David Tennant as a cruel criminal mastermind, stick with Jessica Jones.