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‘Bad Samaritan’ makes its crazy story work

Psycho billionaire Cale (David Tennant) has more high-tech weapons than a gun at his disposal in “Bad Samaritan.”
Psycho billionaire Cale (David Tennant) has more high-tech weapons than a gun at his disposal in “Bad Samaritan.” Electric Entertainment

In the outrageous horror/thriller “Bad Samaritan,” the humdinger of a script takes a play on the popular idiom and reverse engineers the story from there. This is an audaciously wacky film, but the filmmakers do get a few things just right.

Robert Sheehan stars as Sean, a plucky amateur photographer who makes extra money as a restaurant valet, where he makes even more money committing petty theft, thanks to the keys and GPS systems patrons so willingly hand over.

One night, he and his friend Derek think they’ve hit the jackpot when they park the sports car of wealthy jerk Cale (David Tennant). Sean discovers a new black card at their mark’s home, as well as a woman, Katie (Kerry Condon), bridled and chained to a chair.

Here’s where the good/bad Samaritan duality comes into play. Sean may be a thief, but he has a titanium moral compass. He tries to save Katie with a set of bolt cutters, but he’s foiled by Cale’s mastery of his technologically advanced smart house. So he reports the incident to the police, the FBI, anyone he thinks might listen, even while he’s being stalked, threatened and violated by Cale, the bad Samaritan side of the spectrum.

The movie, directed by Dean Devlin, is just so crazy, ripping along at a nonstop pace, that you don’t realize until halfway through that it’s actually quite competently made. The filmmaking itself is suspenseful, classic horror, with plenty of jump scares and ominous camera movements. But the film succeeds most in its realistic use of technology in our everyday lives.

Billionaire Cale may have a smart house he has weaponized through apps on his phone, surveillance cameras and lights, but Sean has an iPhone, and he knows how to use it. And although Cale might have the money and the more advanced gear, Sean is quick on his feet, snapping FaceTime screenshots or using his camera as a periscope. It works because we understand how it works, and it feels natural.

The use of technology is also what truly offers the scares in this film. “Girl-in-a-dungeon” films are a dime a dozen, a trope that would be tired and exploitative if this horrific occurrence didn’t pop up in the news regularly.

But valets using GPS to rob houses? Miniature magnetic trackers? A psycho who steals your password and sends nude photos of your girlfriend to all of her Facebook friends? That’s the stuff that really chills to the bone in “Bad Samaritan,” which understands that technology and the way it’s woven into our everyday lives can be used as weapons for or against us.

At the end of the day, we come to understand that the only thing that can stop a bad Samaritan with a smartphone is a good Samaritan with a smartphone.

‘Bad Samaritan’

  1/2

Rated R for violence, language throughout, some drug use and brief nudity.

Time: 1:50.

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