Earlier in the week, I got an email informing me that all press screenings of No Good Deed had been canceled. There’s a twist toward the end of the film, the email said, that the producers don’t want spoiled by early reviews. My obvious joke to make, of course, was that the twist was that the movie sucks. I wasn’t too far off because, well, the movie does suck, and the sudden yanking of press screenings was just a blatant attempt at preventing people from knowing this. (That the actual twist is less a twist and just something somebody thought was clever proves my point.) Thus, the idea was to squeeze every possible ticket from opening weekend before word-of-mouth kicks in. And it seems to have worked, too, since No Good Deed topped the weekend box office, but that probably has more to do with the consistent success of films with black leads to uniformly make money — something a lot of execs and theaters still can’t seem to wrap their heads around.
The pity lies in the fact that these black actors are given such shoddy films to make these box office statements with. No Good Deed’s Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson have been consistently great throughout their careers, and even occasionally manage to make a movie as hackneyed as this one rise just a bit above the junk heap. That such talented actors have to waste their time and ours with such thoughtless garbage is exhausting to think about, while no one seems to understand the kind of money you could make if you put them in an actually good movie.
Unfortunately, this is the movie everyone’s stuck with, as Elba plays Colin, who — as we’re told via clunky, lazy exposition as the film opens — is a sociopath locked up for murder, and who’s apparently responsible for the disappearance of five women years earlier. He manages to break out of prison, murder his ex-girlfriend and wreck his stolen truck before ending up at the home of Terri, a former prosecutor with two kids and a stale marriage to a husband (TV actor Henry Simmons) who’s out of town.
Colin, with the help of a dangerous storm, manages to charm his way into Terri’s home. Brit TV director Sam Miller tries to ratchet up the suspense at this point as Colin’s charisma places him in the good graces of Terri. But it’s handled with no spark or verve, instead dragging the movie down into tedious meandering. There are huge swaths of the film where nothing’s happening. And when stuff is happening, it’s distasteful. It’s little more than a generic slasher film, playing off home invasion paranoia and violence against women. No Good Deed takes itself too seriously for any of this to be fun, instead making a morass of inefficient plotting and flavorless set pieces — creating a movie that somehow manages to be both unengaging and abhorrent. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, menace, terror and for language.