Merely dropping the last word from the title results in an accurate description of this nasty, ugly, extremely dumb home-invasion stinker, which wastes the considerable talents of Idris Elba. Except for the big-screen dollops of gore, it could easily pass for a bad basic cable flick.
Elba, who had a career high with “Mandela” last year, sinks to the opposite extreme as Colin Evans, a fellow suspected of having killed five women but convicted only of manslaughter in a barroom fight, who engineers a bloody escape from a prison van after he’s denied parole. After visiting his old girlfriend Alexis (Kate Del Castillo), who’s been unfaithful to him, he crashes his van and goes to the suburban home of Terri (Taraji P. Henson), whose husband Jeffrey (Henry Simmons) has just left for a golfing outing with his father. Since it’s a dark and stormy night—a phrase that encapsulates the mediocrity the film also exudes—she foolishly invites him in, despite the fact that she’s alone with her kids, little daughter Ryan (Mirage Moonschein) and her baby brother.
Bad mistake. Colin’s soon transformed from a pleasant-seeming bloke to a steely-eyed menace, as Meg (Leslie Bibb), Terri’s best friend (though, as it turns out, not forever) finds out after she comes over with a bottle of wine. What follows is the kind of cat-and-mouse game that pictures like “Wait Until Dark” have managed so cleverly but this one flubs terribly. Writer Aimee Lagos resorts to the most pathetic clichés—tree limbs breaking through windows, power outages, car alarms that abruptly go off—in a failed effort to drum up some scares, while Sam Miller directs leadenly and Paul Haslinger’s overloud score works overtime to try to pump up the increasingly tedious action. Neither the cinematographer by Michael Barrett nor the editing by Jim Page and Randy Bricker shows any distinction, either.
Meanwhile Elba—who turns out to be one of the most inept stalkers on record—strains to be threatening, and one does have to admire his recuperative powers: he’s repeatedly bashed and stabbed, but like the Energizer Bunny just keeps on going. Henson, similarly, works hard but never engages our concern any more than the kids, who turn out to be almost preternaturally quiet after the opening scenes. (It seems a cruel joke on Henson, by the way, to have Elba pointedly notice a bottle of Fat Burner in the family medicine cabinet.) Bibb is only one of the supporting cast members introduced to bite the dust so our heroine doesn’t have to.
“No Good Deed” will probably be remembered, if at all, for one of the silliest studio excuses ever offered for excluding critics from seeing a movie before opening day. On Tuesday night Screen Gems announced that reviewers would not be permitted to attend the Wednesday preview to which they’d previously been invited. The reason given was that the picture contained a twist they wanted to keep under wraps. Apart from the insulting implication that critics would reveal the “spoiler,” the fact is that the twist, when it comes, is such a damp squib that it’s more likely to elicit a yawn than a gasp. There’s no “Psycho”-level revelation here.
It’s more likely that the studio’s rationale related to the terrible timing of releasing a picture filled with violence against women at a moment when that topic is headlining the news. Not that there would ever be a good time—or reason—to foist this kind of meretricious junk on the public.