Idris Elba can do anything as more and more audiences are discovering as time goes by. But, he has never been a completely unhinged, unsympathetic villain like he is in the thriller No Good Deed.
He is one of the best actors of his generation, and clearly you know he is going to be brilliant as a bad guy. But is that enough and what type of characterization does someone bring to evil when his own persona is so beloved?
It is an interesting quandary for director Sam Miller. Elba portrays an escaped convict who snaps when he doesn’t get the parole he thinks he deserves. He kills a few U.S. Marshals and winds up in the rain wandering near the house of Terri (Taraji P. Henson). With “car trouble” as an excuse, he ends up in her home and charming her (as only Elba can!). But a tiger doesn’t change his stripes and it is not long before the terrorizing begins.
Henson’s Terri is a married mother of two small children (one is just a baby), whose husband is more interested in his career than being a father or loving partner. Terri is lonely and screenwriter Aimee Lagos has painted a picture of her where we really believe that she would open the door for a stranger.
Another difficult task is keeping a storyline like this going over 90-plus minutes. There are only so many places to hide, run or both in a house. Something has to keep the thrills coming and the drama moving towards a believable and (hopefully) crowd cheering conclusion. And we get that from No Good Deed. The premise that is teased in the No Good Deed trailer is delivered.
That is largely due to the two leads. Elba is electrifying and Henson rivets, and between the two of them, their cat and mouse game -- with her children in the crossfire -- has enough gumption to carry through to the end. And speaking of that end, it has one of the best twists we’ve seen in years.
Sure, our No Good Deed review can say that it is formulaic. But, most thrillers like this are, and what this flick has going for it is a double dose of awesomeness in its leads. They engross us and compel our curiosity as to how this entire thing will play out.
Elba overcomes all that audience goodwill that could prevent many an actor from successfully channeling an unsympathetic villain. Yet, it still speaks volumes about the man’s screen presence and real life persona that even though he’s terrific at being evil, we still find ourselves pulling for him as the film goes on.
It’s only after Henson establishes herself as the dominant force in this character tug of war that the tides turn and we begin to cheer her efforts to get this terrible human being out of her house.