‘No Good Deed’: No good comes of a stupid thriller

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Taraji P. Henson and Idris Elba in “No Good Deed.” | SCREEN GEMS

By Barbara VanDenburgh/Gannett News Service

Surely we can find better work for actors as talented as Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson than insulting, brutal home-invasion thrillers where two skilled thespians are made to scowl and scream at each other through a maelstrom of plot contrivances.

The studio pulled all advance screenings of “No Good Deed” late in the week of its release, claiming it didn’t want a shocking plot twist spoiled. There is, in fact, a twist, but it’s far less shocking than the release of a movie in which for nearly an hour and a half Elba luridly terrorizes, brutalizes and murders women who do not meet his demands in the same week as the Ray Rice domestic-abuse scandal.

Elba plays Colin, a convict who was notoriously suspected of having brutally murdered five women. The state didn’t have the evidence to put him away on those charges, but they nailed him for manslaughter in a barroom brawl. Five years later, he’s still so notorious that his parole hearing makes the evening news. That parole is roundly denied on the basis that he’s a violent lunatic who probably killed five women, but in the van ride back to prison he kills a couple of cops and makes a break for it.

An epic storm hits (probably so thunder could crack every time something dramatic happens) and Colin ends up battered, bleeding and soaked on the doorstep of Terri (Henson), a lonely stay-at-home mommy of two whose distant husband is away on a weekend trip. Terri briefly displays the skepticism befitting anyone with an iota of common sense, but soon invites Colin into her home with her two young children to change out of his wet clothes and wait out the storm.

Here’s how stupid this movie is: Before motherhood, Terri was a prosecutor for the DA in the homicide division, who specialized in cases of violence against women, and she has no idea who Colin is, despite the fact that he uses his real name and is on the lam after having killed two cops.

That couldn’t have been that hard to write around — make Henson a whip-smart accountant who doesn’t own a television, for instance, instead of a prosecutor who specialized in exactly the sort of cases that Colin personifies. It’s such unnecessary stupidity, but that’s how little regard this movie has for its characters and viewers. And that goes for the whole movie, extending as far as a third-act plot twist howlingly stupid with coincidence and unintentional hilarity.

But mostly, “No Good Deed” is insulting less because of its narrative ineptitude than in the lurid pleasure it takes in filming Elba in tight-fitting tops torturing women. That’s never a fun time at the movies, but right now, it especially rankles.

[s3r star=1/4]

Screen Gemspresents a film directed by Sam Miller and written by Aimee Lagos. Running time: 90 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of violence, menace and terror, and for language). Now showing at local theaters.

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