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No Good Deed
cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Milla Jovovich, Stellan Skarsg�rd, Grace Zabriski, and Joss Ackland

director: Bob Rafelson

Momentum DVD Region 2 rental or retail
Also available to rent on video

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Donald Morefield
Based on Dashiell Hammett's short story The House On Turk Street, this is a bit of an oddity. Samuel L. Jackson plays traffic cop Jack Friar, an investigator of car theft, whose neighbour comes to him for help with a tale of woe about a runaway daughter, and she pleads with him to search for the missing girl. Reluctantly, he follows the only clue she's given him and disconcertingly stumbles across a gang of potentially vicious crooks who are planning a clever bank robbery.
   Led by apparently seasoned conman Tyrone (Stellan Skarsgård), the bad guys are staying at the ordinary suburban home of older couple, Mr and Mrs Quarre (Joss Ackland and Grace Zabriskie). They are helping Tyrone in order to secure a more-than-just-comfortable retirement overseas, when Jack unsuspectingly finds himself held captive and in all-too-likely danger from the nearly psychotic young hoodlum Hoop (Doug Hutchison), while also subject to closely illicit subversion by the romantic attentions and seeming moral plight of the beautiful temptress Erin (Milla Jovovich, failing to do proper justice to a femme fatale role). She's the lure that corrupt local banker David (Jonathan Higgins) cannot resist, and he's so besotted with her that he doesn't even want to notice that she's already in a rather sinister relationship with nasty Tyrone, while trying to manipulate guileless Hoop into 'saving' her.
   Aspects of the standard 'erotic thriller' sit uneasily alongside the crime drama, with action scenes in both of these genres weakened by the weird, and obtrusive, backgrounds of its main characters. We're supposed to accept that Jack was once a promising cellist, and still harbours musical ambitions, while Russian emigrant Erin was a piano prodigy. Oh, right... Made for each other, aren't they? Will Jack succumb to Erin's charms? Can Jack's sincere honesty and policeman's integrity dissuade Erin from taking any further steps down the path to a life of crime and subterfuge?
   The truth is that No Good Deed serves up a soup of leftover ingredients that simmers away its standard cooking time nicely enough, but remains unsatisfying. Excuse me while I labour this culinary metaphor, but although Erin is a tasty dish Jack and Tyrone (and particularly the mentally defective Hoop) are nothing more than 'stock' characters.
   The narrative fields nifty plot twists without noticeable tension or anything resembling suspense, and the scenes with Jack tied to a dining chair, as gun-toting Erin's hostage lack a single moment of believability. They share an impromptu musical duet for a brief classical piece, but this bizarre sequence will surely provoke howls of bemused laughter from many aficionados of hard-edged film noir, and it's almost certain to confound the expectations of modern weepie fans. The publicity blurb makes a big thing over the mystery of who ends up with the money, but take it from me that you won't care.

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