No Good Deed (PG-13)

Suspense/Thriller 84 September 12, 2014
By Chris Klimek
To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to ogle Idris Elba when he takes his shirt off but also to cheer when a stay-at-home mom brains him with a fire extinguisher and stabs him with her keys. That seems to be the marketing psychology behind No Good Deed, a deeply stupid thriller that features the ladykiller as, well, a murderer of women.

Elba is credited as an executive producer, as is Taraji P. Henson, who plays Terri, the good woman he menaces after spending a very long time getting to know her. Which means it’s fair to hold Elba and Henson both at least partially responsible for the insulting condescension that permeates this film. Even beyond Aimee Lagos’s lazy script, the casting and set decorating (which gives Terri a medicine cabinet full of weight-loss pills) suggest a cynical attempt to customize a movie for Black Women Who Are Afraid Their Husbands Might Have a Fling With a Skinny White Lady.

We love thrillers -- even inept, boring ones like No Good Deed -- for the way they temporarily scramble our moral compasses. No Good Deed reaches those intoxicating heights of incrimination for about 90 seconds: After Colin has abducted Terri and her children in her car, she manages to signal a passing police cruiser for help. The cop who pulls them over is a shaky rookie who might panic and shoot wildly into the car where a killer is hiding behind Terri’s two babies. Suddenly Terri wants nothing more in the world than for the cop to go away and leave her to fend for herself with the murderer.
Sam Miller Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson, Leslie Bibb, Kate del Castillo, Henry Simmons, Alan D. Purwin, Wilbur Fitzgerald, Mark Rhino Smith, Kenny Alfonso Aimee Lagos Will Packer, Lee Clay Sony/Screen Gems

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