By Sorraya Brashear-Evans
You typically encounter one of two types of villains during home-invasion movies. There’s the textbook villain — the guy who uses brute force to gain access to homes and controls the fears of his victims by wearing a mask and speaking in a low, ominous manner — think “The Purge.” Then there’s the second type — the charmer — a person who woos his way into your home by flashing a dashing smile and earning your trust. You can probably already guess which type of villain Idris Elba, Essence’s 2013 Sexiest Man Alive, plays in “No Good Deed.”
Director Sam Miller and screenwriter Aimee Lagos had to have known that a guy looking like Elba wouldn’t have a problem getting a woman to let him into her house. That’s why they spent the entire first portion of the film reiterating the fact that Elba’s character, Colin Evans, is not a good guy, no matter how charming he presumes to be.
During the opening sequences, Colin is described as being “one of the most feared men in the annals of state history.” Then, we follow Colin’s character to the time of his parole hearing. He is moments away from being free when one of the board members interrupts the proceedings to dismantle Colin’s charming allusion and to remind the court that no matter how Colin appears, he is still a loose cannon that will “lose control if he’s rejected or things don’t go his way.”
I loved the curveballs that this movie threw at the audience. Just when you think you’ve got the entire plot mapped out, something happens to knock you off your feet. After his failed parole hearing, Colin escapes by shooting the kind, old security guard who has always helped him, then shows up at his old girlfriend’s house and murders her.
Promptly after the murders, Colin wrecks his car and seeks help from Terri, played by Taraji P. Henson. Of course, Terri is more than eager to take in this handsome stranger. While Colin waits inside for a tow truck, Terri spends most of her time primping her hair in the bathroom.
Both Colin and Terri hit it off immediately. She makes him tea, and Terri, as well as the audience, gets a chance to drool over Colin while he’s changing into a clean shirt. Everything is going smoothly until Terri’s best friend Meg, played by Leslie Bibb, arrives for a fun girl’s night. Meg grows more and more suspicious about Colin’s motives.
That’s when it all gets real. Colin goes from a charming gentleman to a sadistic menace once more, and the film quickly devolves into a standard man-chases-woman-around-with-a-weapon thriller.
I was a bit disappointed. There are moments in the film that could have been handled smarter to make it a much more dynamic movie. For example, at one point, the audience learns of Terri’s previous employment as a prosecutor who specializes in domestic violence cases. I would have liked to see this element explored a lot more. However, an example of intelligent character development is during a scene where Colin forces her to get dressed in front of him, to which Terri says, “I’m getting sick and tired of this sadistic bullshit!” But those golden moments were too few and far between, rendering this film no more special than a typical home-invasion movie.
And then there was the ending. Screen Gems, the production studio behind “No Good Deed,” canceled all of its advanced screenings for film critics, citing that they “didn’t want anyone to spoil the film’s final twist for viewers.” I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I was definitely expecting something more. The ending was so anticlimactic that it made M. Night Shyamalan look like Alfred Hitchcock. This film had a lot of potential, but there was a disconnection between the idea and the execution. But in spite of its flaws, I found “No Good Deed” to be an enjoyable film.