Dir: Bob Rafelson. USA. 2002. 104mins.
Based on a Dashiell Hammett story, Bob Rafelson's latest noir thriller is neither particularly dark nor especially thrilling. Samuel L Jackson makes a fair stab at the first black diabetic cello-playing cop in cinema history, but his bitter intensity is not enough to paper over the film's problems of pace and dialogue. And while the Jackson-Jovovich pairing looks intriguing on paper, it runs out of erotic fuel on screen. A modest Italy-first release - where it has taken $181,000 (Euros 174,000) after opening in late October on 112 screens. Watchable but entirely undemanding, No Good Deed, which had the previous name of The House On Turk Street, has 'video/DVD' written all over it.
Hammett is brought up to date in an elaborate plot which injects a little techno geekdom into that old trope of the small-time cop who stumbles unwittingly on a big-time crime. NYPD car theft specialist Jack Friar (Jackson) puts off his departure for a cello masterclass to help a neighbour look for her missing daughter. Hot on the girl's trail, he wanders into a house where a bank robbery is being prepared, and is taken hostage. Criminal mastermind Tyrone (Stellan Skarsgard) and psychotic hothead Hoop (Doug Hutchison) leave Friar with leggy moll Erin (Mila Jovovich) while they pull off a $10m computer heist at a bank. It's no spoiler to reveal that the glamorous guard warms to her prisoner.
No Good Deed is clearly intended as an oddball mix of black comedy (shades of Arsenic And Old Lace in the characters of the elderly couple who preside over the criminal household) and steamy captor-and-captive psychodrama; but the script is not tight enough to pull off this difficult meld of tones.
The dialogue is corny and the narrative segues creakily, as when Erin is given an excuse to pop over to Friar's flat to pick up his cello, all so that the vamp (a trained concert pianist) can get the instrument between her legs for a quick lesson. Why Jackson then agrees to be tied up in his chair again is a mystery - fortunately it is an office chair on wheels, which gives him the free run of the ground floor.
The suspense somehow claws its way back after every drop, but this is not enough to save what is in the end just a decently-shot, nice-try-but-no-cigar genre outing.
Prod cos: Peter Hoffman, Remstar, Seven Arts, ApolloMedia, Crannog Films
It dist: Medusa Film
Int'l sales: Seven Arts International
Exec prods: Julien Remillard, David E Allen, Frank Hubner, Jan Fantl
Prods: Sam Perlmutter, David Braun, Maxine Remillard, Andre Rouleau, Herb Nanas, Barry Berg
Scr: Christopher Canaan, Steve Barancik
Cinematography: Juan Ruiz-Anchia
Prod des: Paul Peters
Ed: William Scharf
Music: Jeff Beal
Main cast: Samuel L Jackson, Milla Jovovich, Stellan Skarsgard, Doug Hutchison, Joss Ackland, Grace Zabriskie