The frustrating thriller Bad Samaritan squanders an intriguing premise and tense setup by unraveling into threadbare tropes. Cat burglar Sean (Robert Sheehan) lines his pockets by using his valet job at a fancy Portland restaurant to gain access to diners’ nearby homes in order to steal watches, jewelry, gift cards and other small items that the homeowners won’t easily notice are missing. When an intense, Maserati-driving asshole named Cale (David Tennant) hands over his keys, Sean and his partner-in-crime, Derek (Carlito Olivero), can’t believe their good fortune. But when Sean enters the man’s heavily-secured home office, he makes a disturbing discovery: a bloodied and gagged woman (Kerry Condon) shackled to a chair.

Helmed by Geostorm director Dean Devlin, Bad Samaritan’s taut first act sets the stage for what could’ve been a compelling game of cat-and-mouse. After Sean chickens out and abandons the captive woman in order to get the Maserati back to the restaurant in time, he’s wracked with guilt and becomes fixated on rescuing her. As Cale quickly figures out what’s going on, he begins his own pursuit of Sean, setting traps to ensnare him and using his vast wealth, technological savvy and apparent social influence to do everything from hacking Sean’s social media accounts to posting a nude photo of his girlfriend, Riley (Jacqueline Byers), to pulling strings that get Sean’s mom and stepdad fired from their jobs. Before long, things take an increasingly violent turn.

Tennant, a former Doctor Who, fully commits himself to this psychopathic killer role. His hard stares and sporadic frenzies do more to develop his villainy than anything in the hackneyed script. Even though psycho killers are far more terrifying when their motivations are kept obscured, the filmmakers insist on mapping out the clichéd roots to Cale’s murderous mania, which stem back, of course, to a violent childhood episode. Cale also follows in the vein of so many cinematic serial killers who consider the bodies of individual women to be building blocks in actualizing their grand design, and his obsessive-compulsive fixations on cleanliness and order—a misplaced bolt cutter irks him intensely, and he insists his captive wash herself in a “circular motion, using the correct soap”—end up feeling trite. In this way, the film blatantly cribs elements of The Silence of the Lambs and American Psycho. As he rants about creating order from chaos and “correcting” people, the heavy-handed script undercuts what’s otherwise an intriguing, if occasionally hyperbolic, performance.

Bad Samaritan loses its way when Sean appeals to both the unhelpful local police and then to the FBI. Instead of keeping the focus on the mind games with which Cale torments Sean, Devlin often cuts to superfluous scenes of detectives putting the pieces together; in one particular bit of exposition, they even somehow deduce the exact childhood episode that set Cale’s murderous rampage into motion. By devolving into unoriginal nonsense by the third act, this is the type of film that’s laid even lower by the fact that it actually had a lot going for it before completely falling apart.

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