The new home-invasion thriller “No Good Deed” got some free publicity from film critics when they went public about Screen Gems’ cancellation of all advance screenings this week. Ostensibly to preserve the twist ending (which nobody even knew about before Screen Gems’ announcement), most assumed it was an Screen Gems’ attempt to stave off inevitable bad reviews for a stinker. But there’s a shocking twist: it’s actually quite good!
No, not really. To be fair, not all of the reviews are scathing: Inkoo Kang of The Wrap calls the film “serviceable” and wonders whether the real reason for the delay was the film’s release so close in proximity to the release of the Ray Rice video, something a few other critics also guess. But most still knock the film for its ludicrous plotting, its uncomfortable sadistic streak, and for wasting the talents of Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson. As for the twist: nearly all of the reviews criticize it, but special credit to RogerEbert.com’s Peter Sobczynski’s line that Tyler Perry would have rejected it for being too implausible.
“No Good Deed” is in theaters today. The twist is that ALL OF THE THEATERS ARE EMPTY!
Jesse Hassenger, The A.V. Club
Director Sam Miller, who worked with Elba on the TV series Luther, seems to think that a hasty cobbling together of creaking floorboards, surprise stabbings, and baby endangerment will be enough to tighten up the suspense in the final stretch. It’s not. It’s not. By its end, “No Good Deed” becomes troublingly easy to read as a parable about the untrustworthiness of black men. The filmmakers may not have intended it that way, but the movie is so bereft of anything else that its forays into moralistic paranoia stick out. Read more.
Inkoo Kang, The Wrap
Colin’s quickness to violence renders him a problematic character. He’s a stereotype of the brutally misogynistic black man, a fact that makes both the character and the physical aggression on screen difficult to watch. An early scene in which strangles his ex-girlfriend, then batters her corpse in unwaning anger, borders on sickening. To the film’s credit, that act doesn’t feel gratuitous but rather part of a larger commentary about domestic violence, as when a prison guard friendly to Colin dismisses the allegations that he has murdered five women by shrugging it off as the convict’s “women trouble.” Read more.
Andrew Lapin, The Dissolve
So yes, there’s technically a twist. But what it truly reveals is a lack of narrative imagination to match its lack of technical imagination. It’s a closed loop even smaller than the already limited range of possibilities suggested by the preceding story. There’s no good brain in “No Good Deed.” Surprise. Read more.
Dustin Rowles, Pajiba
There is nothing original about it. There are no twists. There are no inventive filmmaking techniques or impressive performances. It is straight-up an excuse to watch a physically imposing man bully a smaller woman at her most vulnerable for over an hour, while threatening to kill her five-year-old daughter and infant baby. Naturally, there are also several opportunities for Elba to remove his shirt, and others for Henson to wear a see-through tank top while she’s not wearing a bra, because obviously what every menacing woman-in-jeopardy film needs is a goddamn sexually charged atmosphere. Read more.
Lindsay Bahr, Entertainment Weekly
That’s not to say “Deed” isn’t gripping at times, and the fact that Henson’s character has to protect not only herself but an infant and kid too adds some interesting stakes to the final showdown. But with performers as strong as Henson and Elba, and the guidance of director Sam Miller, who’s worked with Elba in a handful of “Luther” episodes, it should have yielded more. The trite third act reveal only further sours the wasted potential. Read more.
Bilge Ebiri, Vulture
Elba and Henson are both wonderful actors, and they do what they can with what little psychological back and forth they’ve been provided. He has remarkably kind eyes, which make you want to believe him even when you know the worst is true, but the way he casually dominates the spaces of Terri’s McMansion also speaks to a slowly gathering, alpha-male menace. Even so, both actors are being curiously wasted. I don’t know anything about this film’s history, and yet I couldn’t help but wonder if at some point during production, Colin’s guilt was left uncertain: Why give us a parole hearing otherwise? Why assert that he was never convicted of the murders otherwise? Why go to the trouble of showing him having an actual car accident otherwise? Why cast Idris Elba in the part otherwise? Why even bother having the movie otherwise? Read more.
Peter Sobczynski, RogerEbert.com
I guess I should mention that towards the end of “No Good Deed,” there is something that could technically be considered a shocking plot twist. However, in this particular case, the twist is so absurd, so arbitrary and has so little effect on the proceedings that it feels like the kind of thing that Tyler Perry might have scratched on the bounds that it was just too implausible and ridiculous to be believed. Read more.