Idris Elba’s had a pretty stellar career so far. He appeared as one of the most iconic characters in one of the most highly regarded TV shows of our age as Stringer Bell in The Wire in the US. In Britain, he helped turn DCI Luther into one of the most fascinating crime dramas in decades. He’s been in blockbusters like Prometheus, Pacific Rim and Thor. He’s even played Nelson Mandela. Then comes No Good Deed.
No Good Deed sees Elba play Colin. A convicted manslaughterererer, he is denied parole due to one knowing sage in the parole board cursing him for the charming sociopath that he is. Charming as he is Colin doesn’t like to be called out, we can tell this because echoes repeat in his head when he’s annoyed. On his way back to jail he overpowers the two old guards keeping watch and we know how evil he really is when he shoots dead the kindly guard who had been nice to him. Meanwhile, frustrated housewife Terry, (Taraji P. Henson) is rushing around looking after the kids whilst the husband (Henry Simmons) heads off for a weekend away. Luckily her bessie mate, the fiesty Meg (Leslie Bibb) is on hand with her Sex and the City girls talk and promise of wine to keep them occupied. As possibly one of the worst storms ever hits the area so does Colin. He decides to knock on Terry’s door and what initially turns from “can I use your phone” to “stay for some wine” to eventually “please don’t kill my children” as he terrorises Terry in her own home.
Going back to my earlier point of, then comes No Good Deed, it does seem strange that a man with this much star clout at the moment would chose to make a film like this. Elba is even credited as Executive Producer on this big hunk of meh. True it provides Elba with a lot of screen time and a chance to flex his wicked muscle but the film is simply one mass of cliche tied up with the string blandness.
Taraji P. Henson puts in a committed turn as the fearful and when required gutsy Terry. Usually playing the supporting role it’s good to see help carry the film. This is the kind of role that Elba can do in his sleep, charm and the treat of violence follow him wherever he goes. The home invasion story though has been culled together from so many past horrors, thrillers and even comedies, it is genuinely too tasking to list them. You do get the sense thought that the film makers weren’t necessarily worried about bringing a fresh edge to the genre. Produced by William Packer, the man with an unquestionable box office track record with questionable material it is he we have to thank for Ride Along, The Wedding Ringer and Think Like a Man. There you go, that’s the quality we’re dealing with here.
Every step in the plot you can guess happens. Despite Colin’s love of killing people supposedly at random there’s never any real threat or menace to the proceedings. The fact that a storm rages on for most of the films run time should tell you about the level of subtlety we’re dealing with. At times a psychological cat and mouse thriller other times out and out serial killer hokum. Director Sam Miller, who cut his teeth on programmes like The Bill and later worked with Elba on Luther does nothing to help the blandness of the script, shooting the film with all the flair of Cillit Bang advert. Which is a shame because he has shown some great work on Luther.
Perhaps viewers without much knowledge of this kind of film will find some tense scenes. A couple of “mmm-mmm I wouldn’t go down those step girl” moments but for everyone else No Good Deed will stand as a great mystery. Why did Elba decide to star and produce something so unforgivable forgettable?
No Good Deed is available on Digital HD now and DVD from March 23rd via Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.