Mama, I learnt something new today; a malignant narcissist. That’s about the only thing this home invasion thriller by director Sam Miller added to me. Malignant narcissism is a psychological syndrome comprising an extreme mix of narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, aggression, and sadism (thank you Wikipedia). That is the tag placed one of our stars character and I was hoping for a little dissection of the said personality at the very least but the film fails on that level whilst constantly undermining its audience’s intelligence with preposterous contrivances and gross lack of invention.
The film opens as we head towards a parole hearing for Colin Evans (Idris Elba) amidst exposition from a news reporter that informs us of the murder of 5 women he was allegedly responsible for but never convicted on lack of evidence. He is however doing time for killing a man in bar fight and is looking to convince a parole board he is a changed man. It doesn’t work out for him as one of the parole board members brings up his alleged involvement in the murder of the 5 women and proceeds to educate us on the traits of a malignant narcissist going on to compare him to a few actual serial killers. On his trip back to prison he murders his transport guards and escapes.
Hints that our primary antagonist has issues with women are dropped but what they actually are, the film does not put a finger on. Does he have a trust issues because of his past? Does he have a ridiculous sense of entitlement? I can’t say. Is it his narcissistic personality which demands women sees him in the same high regard he sees himself? I can’t say either and that was one of the major failings of this film, the fact that it adequately fails to break down Colin Evans as a character and we end up not having any particular emotion towards him which also echoes the directors handling of the said character.
Trying to drive through a terrible storm, Colin wrecks his car and ends up seemingly by chance on the doorstep of Terri (Taraji P. Henson), a former prosecutor who specialized in cases involving violence against women but had no idea who this alleged killer of 5 women was. Its details like that which begins the cheapening process of this thriller. Terri is now a stay-at-home mom of 2 and her husband of course is consumed by work. The obligatory “you wanted this (to be a mom) scene” rears its head as we gather all is not well with their marriage. Her husband is out of town on a golfing trip and she is ostensibly ripe for the picking as far as Colin is concerned. He rings the doorbell asking to use her phone and Terri obliges and eventually lets this stranger in and next thing you know, they’re having wine with Terri’s best friend even joining the party.
There as snippets where I questioned Colin’s motives but when his intentions become somewhat clear, the film progresses into a dumb game of cat and mouse and I can’t recollect any home invasion thrillers but I bet the suspense was riddled with well-worn clichés. The film offers no invention in the way the tension is handed. The 2 kids might as well have been 2 puppies and the car alarm could have just been written as an angel. That would at least given some weird intrigue to hold up the shallow characters running around waiting for time to run out before they decide it’s time for a resolution. The characters played by brilliant actors in their own right are made to look silly amidst the contrivances in a bid to stretch out the poorly executed plot.
The studio releasing the film decided to scrap all advanced press screenings which is never a good thing. Their reason was there was a crucial plot twist they wanted audiences to experience without having critics ruin it. I can understand their rational in these modern times and maybe there’s a chance their heart was in the right place but when the plot twist drops towards the very end, it does the remarkable thing of denigrating the film and Elba’s character even further. Still on the cancelled screenings though, let’s bear in mind the Ray Rice saga dominating the news cycle may have informed their PR move – just saying.
The suspense, however cheap, means the No Good Deed is no bore fest but we are given the grueling task of watching two talented actors act like a bunch of 6 year olds playing a more violent version of hide and seek. Ladies who do decide to see this will get the added bonus of seeing Elba shirtless which is always a good thing i guess.