When a studio doesn’t screen a film in advance, it is usually a warning sign that it no confidence in the movie.
When said studio pulls the screenings at the last minute, that is the ultimate red flag.
Such is the case with “No Good Deed,” a pretty queasy thriller that suffers from poor timing. Coming on the heels of the Ray Rice situation – the NFL star was was suspended after a video surfaced showing Rice punching Janay Palmer, now his wife – here is a film where violence against women is front and center. It’s not very easy to watch.
Maybe it could be easier to take if the script was better, but this is low-level storytelling with too many head-scratching moments.
Idris Elba plays Colin, an unstable and violent criminal who escapes from prison after his parole is denied.
After visiting his former girlfriend and confronting her about ignoring him while in prison – one of many scenes that are hard to watch – he looks to complete his escape, but a car wreck derails those plans.
Colin seeks shelter at a nearby home where Terri (Taraji P. Henson), a wife and mother, is alone with her two young children.
Terri invites him in while he waits for his car to be towed, but things quickly turn for the worse with Colin terrorizing Terri and her children, leaving the woman in a fight for survival.
Elba and Henson are both well-respected and talented actors, but they have little to work with here.
“No Good Deed” is the kind of film where these characters are supposed to be smart people, yet keep doing dumb things that help move the plot along.
Even with a PG-13 rating, this film is hard to watch. The violence against women is uncomfortable. You throw in scenes that put young children in danger, and it makes it even harder to watch.
That brings me back to the last-minute decision to cancel all the advance screenings.
Studio executives claims they did it because they didn’t want to spoil a pivotal plot twist – without spoiling it, I’ll say it isn’t much of a twist. But I think the real reason is fear of backlash against a film that is just hard to watch.
This is bottom-of-the-barrel exploitive sleaze, making “No Good Deed” one of 2014’s most uncomfortable cinematic experiences.
Also in theaters
This week’s other new release is “Dolphin Tale 2” (C), the follow-up to the 2011 surprise hit that is competent enough family entertainment but is not compelling enough to go out of your way to see.
Based on the true story of a Florida marine hospital that rescued a dolphin named Winter who lost her tail after getting tangled in a crab trap, “Dolphin Tale 2” picks up with the dolphin alone after her surrogate mother passes away.
This leaves the people in the facility, headed by Dr. Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr.), scrambling to find a new partner for Winter since federal regulations require that dolphins cannot be housed alone.
“Dolphin Tale 2” is fine when it stays in the pool, but there is way too much time spent away from the dolphin with a plot involving Sawyer (Nathan Gamble), the boy who found Winter, contemplating a chance to take a course study abroad.
I also found the young female character named Hazel (Cozi Zuehlsdorff) to be rather annoying.
The best moments in “Dolphin Tale 2” come during the closing credits with footage that shows disabled people visiting the dolphin that has learned to swim with a prothetic tail. Those images are far more powerful than anything else in “Dolphin Tale 2,” making me wish that the filmmakers just did a documentary instead of a cookie-cutter inspirational family film.
“Dolphin Tale 2” is rated PG for some mild thematic elements and is playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12, Highland Cinemas in Glasgow, and the Franklin Drive-In.