In No Good Deed, a former lawyer who specialized in cases of violence against women unwittingly welcomes into her home an escaped convict with a history of terrorizing female victims. By the time this ex-con, named Colin (Idris Elba), charms his way into Terri’s (Taraji P. Henson) Pottery Barn catalog of a home, the audience is already well aware of his brutality. On the eve of his parole hearing at the beginning of the movie, a Tennessee newscaster informs us that he’s basically the most notorious criminal in the country, suspected of abducting five women, but convicted of an unrelated manslaughter. He’s denied parole, escapes soon after, and heads to Georgia to take care of some business, which ultimately puts him on Terri’s doorstep. Why isn’t she hip to the news that there’s a criminal on the loose just one state away? Beats us.
Still, there’s an intriguing premise buried in there that could have resulted in a smart look inside the mind of a malignant narcissist (which, the movie reminds us over and over again, was Jeffrey Dahmer’s diagnosis too). But No Good Deed chooses instead to operate as a fairly conventional home-invasion thriller. Much of the indulgent second act consists of making us wait—sometimes in true suspense, but mostly in boredom—for Terri to figure out that this hulking man is actually a psychopath. That’s not to say Deed isn’t gripping at times, and the fact that Henson’s character has to protect not only herself but an infant and kid too adds some interesting stakes to the final showdown. But with performers as strong as Henson and Elba, and the guidance of director Sam Miller, who’s worked with Elba in a handful of Luther episodes, it should have yielded more. The trite third act reveal only further sours the wasted potential. C