I’ll admit it. When I first saw the trailer for No Good Deed, I was absolutely thrilled. A suspense/thriller/borderline horror movie with two black leads was long overdue in my opinion. That was the main pro, the main draw-in, to go see this film. The main con was that the trailer gave away the fact that this film was going to be a formulaic genre entry exactly like every other film in this genre that we’ve seen before. And the truth is, it was exactly that. Not that this was a bad thing.
Idris Elba stars as Colin Evans, a convicted felon who, upon escaping the police after his parole was denied, travels back to his fiance’s town to reclaim her. That doesn’t go quite as he planned, and one thing leads to another, causing him to eventually find himself a stranded motorist on the doorstep of Terri, played by Taraji P. Henson. Terri is alone at home with two very young kids, and you can pretty much guess the entire plot of the film from there. Terri eventually invites Colin in, he charms her, but she soon finds out the hard way that there is much more to him than meets the eye.
Given that this is a plot any moviegoer has probably seen many times before, there isn’t much else to be said, plot-wise, for this film other than it was enjoyable for what it was. Guy and girl encounter each other, girl has no idea that guy is not some charming man but is in fact a dangerous killer, guy toys with girl for a while, girl finally figures out she’s dealing with a psychopath, and then the chase is on: girl begins a long fight for her life. Viewing this movie is really all about waiting for the other shoe to drop; waiting for Colin’s rage to take over and for him to show his true colors as a murderer.
One thing this movie had going for it was the way it establishes early on, well before we meet Terri, that she is in deep trouble. Within the first five or so minutes, we see Colin in his rage, and within the first fifteen we see what a cunning, heartless liar he is. And by the time he gets to Terri, it’s blatantly clear to the audience that no way is she any match for him.
I like the fact that, more and more these days, thriller movies and horror movies are doing all they can to make the villain smart, and therefore a more compelling villain overall. No Good Deed is no exception to this. Colin is not only strong and dangerous; he’s also a very intelligent man who just so happens to be a malignant narcissist. The general rule of thumb is: the better then villain, the better the movie, and Colin’s brilliance and menacing nature definitely are important to the suspense of this movie.
However, there’s a counter to this. While a lot of time seems to have been put into making Colin a great villain, the way Terri is written breaks one important rule: having stupid characters doing stupid things. There were more than a couple of times when I went to see this film that the audience (myself included) groaned because Terri was doing something stupid onscreen. One problem with this is that it raises a question I find myself asking more and more when watching movies likes this: was the character written to do stupid things to make the audience not like him/her so we root for the villain and feel like the “hero” deserves what they’re getting, just for being so stupid? The problem with that is, aren’t we supposed to be rooting for Terri, and not the villain?
The other problem with having a character do stupid things is that it takes away from the enjoyment of the heavy action moments. A villain and a hero have to ultimately be somewhat equally matched in order for a film like this to work, and throughout most of the film, Terri and Colin don’t appear to be so. They try to fix this problem by having Terri do something creative and cunning towards the end that buys her some time, but by that point I was thinking, “Why couldn’t she have been this smart all along? Maybe things wouldn’t have gotten this far.”
One of the best things about this movie is that there is a little semi-twist at the end, and everything comes together. While there have certainly been films with much better twists, it was at least a little shocking, and a nice way to tie things up.
Ultimately, while there isn’t really anything terribly new or clever about the plot of No Good Deed, it was fun and somewhat thrilling and had its suspenseful moments. Definitely worth seeing if you’re a fan of this genre like I am.