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Bad Samaritan is ... Bad

Tully is grown-up good

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BAD SAMARITAN. There can be fun in a bad movie. The histrionics of ill-prepared actors, the guilty satisfaction of DIY-grade effects, the cheap thrill of catching a boom microphone dipping into frame. It can shrink the distance between the makers and the audience. Earnest effort can be endearing, charming for its lack of charm — it may not be great but damn it, they tried.

Or a bad movie can create a vacuum, drawing in any hope or goodwill a viewer brought to the theater. Bad Samaritan is definitively of this latter type. Founded on plot devices spanning from unlikely to implausible to impossible to stupid, it squanders a clever(ish) premise on 110 minutes of pseudo-thriller claptrap containing zero thrills. To call it silly does a disservice to silliness, implying there's fun to be had. There is none.

Sean (Robert Sheehan), a would-be fine art photographer in Portland, Oregon, works as a valet with his buddy Derek (Carlito Olivero). They run a scam wherein they use the diners' cars to burglarize their houses while they enjoy dinner. One night a particularly prickish customer (David Tennant), arrives in a Maserati. Sean smells blood in the water, goes to the guy's house, steals a new credit card and finds a woman bound and gagged in a darkened office draped in black plastic — sinister! Sean attempts to free her but his efforts are stifled by remotely controlled security cameras. He flees and calls the cops, but our antagonist is too smart. So begins an insufferable cat-and-mouse game, contingent on our belief that Tennant's Cale Erendreich is not only a trust-fund psychopath, but also an insatiable and ingenious serial killer driven by some adolescent incident involving a horse.

For a story relying on the killer's psychology and methodology, Bad Samaritan demonstrates little interest in verisimilitude. Erendreich is a slavering lunatic one moment, the picture of composure the next, and a master of social media who also doesn't understand how a screenshot works. It's bogus, which would be fine if it was entertaining, but it's not.

There are moments where maybe Tennant is letting us in on a private joke, channeling Patrick Bateman unbeknownst to everyone else on set, but that's a long walk to find even dubious merit in this mess. It's a charmless bad movie, the type that can make one irritated and sad, shaking a fist at the screen in frustration and frustrated sympathy for those involved. R. 107m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

TULLY. Writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman first collaborated on Juno (2007), which won Cody an Oscar and as many vocal fans as detractors. Its doggedly quirky, forced perspective on adolescence gets tiresome and the seams in its threadbare, funky whimsy become all-too apparent in places. Still, it subverts movie genre and explores sexuality and (pending) adulthood from a distinct perspective. Cody and Reitman came together again to make Young Adult (2011), enlisting the formidable aid of Charlize Theron to delve further into notions of growing up or avoiding it. The three of them have re-teamed for Tully and a continuum of storytelling maturity is crystallizing.

Marlo (Theron) is, as the movie opens, severely pregnant with her third child. Her middle son Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica) has some behavioral difficulties. Her husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), travels a lot for work and spends maybe too much of his time at home wearing a headset and playing video games. She is exhausted, stuck, lost to herself. When her rich brother Craig (Mark Duplass) offers to hire her a night nanny, she initially balks. Eventually, though, she takes him up on it and Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a sage, Bohemian 20-something, changes her life.

There's a lot more to it than that but I won't spoil the surprise. Both Cody and Reitman have toned it down, becoming more economical, less precious. The visceral emotional authenticity that made Juno work is still part of their collaboration but here they explore it more patiently, trusting the material and the actors to find and illuminate details. R. 95m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

—John J. Bennett

For showtimes, see listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richards' Goat Miniplex 630-5000.

Previews

BREAKING IN. Gabrielle Union in a resourceful-mom-vs.-baddies thriller with the kids locked in a high-tech house. PG13. 88m.

GODARD, MON AMOUR. Now seems like a great time for a movie about an auteur who marries his teen star. R. 107m.MINOR.

LIFE OF THE PARTY. Melissa McCarthy stars as a mom who goes back to college at her daughter's school and has a better time than I did. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

OVERBOARD. Anna Faris and Eugenio Derbez in a gender-swapped 1980s comedy remake about revenge-conning a wealthy jackass into fake marriage. PG13. 112m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

RBG. Documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court justice in the fly collar. PG. 97m. MINOR.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965). Julie Andrews takes us back to when Nazis were not considered fine people. PG. 172m. BROADWAY.

Continuing

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. Seriousness suffocates the best of this parade of characters in seriousness in this massive supermovie. PG13. 149m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK, MINOR.

BLACK PANTHER. Ryan Coogler's big, exhilarating Marvel movie has a fascinating, nuanced story and visual style, but some of it's lost in requisite superhero noise. PG13. 134m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

BLOCKERS. John Cena and Leslie Mann play parents struggling with the looming adulthood/sexual activity of their kids in a raunchy slapstick comedy. R. 102m. BROADWAY.

THE DEATH OF STALIN. Steve Buscemi as Khrushchev, plotting and maneuvering for his life in a Soviet regime-change comedy. R. 107m. MINIPLEX.

I FEEL PRETTY. Amy Schumer stars as a woman with accidentally inflated self-esteem in a muddled rom-com that fumbles its message. PG13. 110m. BROADWAY, MILL CREEK.

ISLE OF DOGS. Wes Anderson's stop-motion tale of dogs in dystopian Japan showcases technical and storytelling skills for a very Anderson experience. PG13. 101m. MINOR.

A QUIET PLACE. This effective horror about a family surviving amid creatures that hunt by sound achieves emotional authenticity about trauma and isolation. BROADWAY, FORTUNA, MILL CREEK.

RAMPAGE. Dwayne Johnson wasted again among giant animals, weak story and effects that suck the fun from a popcorn action movie. PG13. 107m. BROADWAY, FORTUNA.

READY PLAYER ONE. Steven Spielberg's immersive, impressive, self-referential adventure about revolution via virtual gaming fries the audience's eyes and patience. PG13. 140m. BROADWAY.

SUPER TROOPERS 2. Broken Lizard's drinky, druggy, bawdy, prank-based humor returns with its uniformed dorks battling Mounties and busting smugglers. R. 100m. BROADWAY, MINOR.

— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

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