Culver City Observer -



September 18, 2014

Continuing with themes of old adages and films lensed within a single confined space, I turn your attention to NO GOOD DEED. As your mother always told you, no good deed goes unpunished and that's exactly what happens to Taraji P. Henson's "Terry" in NO GOOD DEED.

Terry is a devoted wife and mother of a four-year old daughter and newborn son. From the looks of her plush, suburban wooded Atlanta neighborhood and her house, her husband provides well for the family. From the exterior of the house to the furnishings and art inside, it looks like a page from Architectural Digest. And while on the surface it may appear that Terry has an ideal life, she clearly doesn't. Suffering with post-partum body issues and low self-esteem, Terry is feeling the lack of attention from a husband who is always working. Left alone yet again as her husband heads out of town for a golfing weekend for his father's birthday, Terry is in a funk, something that best friend Meg determines to break her of with a girls-night-in.

As the sunny summer day has turned into one of doom and gloom with a thunderstorm raging outside, Terry thinks nothing of it when her doorbell rings, other than being surprised that Meg would have still ventured out in the inclement weather to come hang out. But imagine Terry's surprise when she flings open the door and sees a tall handsome (very handsome), and injured, man on her stoop. (Yes, I know. Flinging open doors on a dark and stormy night without looking in the peephole is a no-no, ladies!)

His name is Colin. He has car trouble. Can he use her phone to call a tow company? A question and answer session ensues that has all the hallmarks of foreplay. What about your cell phone? Uh, forgot it. No problem. Here's the phone. Oh, you're bleeding, you're all wet. Come inside and let me dress your wound while you take off that wet shirt and jacket. You hungry? Want a glass of wine? And then Meg arrives.

As Meg thinks there's more to muscular and manly Colin than meets the eye, she starts probing with specific questions to Colin while Terry tends to some non-sleeping children. When Terry returns to her guests, only Colin is there. Strange. Her best friend would never leave without saying good-bye.

And because of the surprises and twists within the film, that's all the plot you get.

Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson soar. Serving as very hands-on executive producers as well as lead actors, the two feed off the energy of one another in a dance of suspense that is as thrilling as it is action-packed and intense; so intense in fact that during a crucial scene of physicality, Elba actually struck Henson in the face with a gun and drew blood. The emotional chess game played out between Colin and Terry is enthralling. And while we saw Henson get down and dirty earlier this year in "Think Like A Man Too", she goes toe-to-toe with Elba, demonstrating she can kick some serious butt! Standout with Henson, however, is that Terry is a wonderful shift of performance, allowing Henson to tackle a character that has a great arc as she gets her balls - and brains - back after falling into the stay-at-home-mom slump. And while Elba's intensity can be searing, it's his personable charm that creates red herrings and plot twists.

As Terry's husband, Henry Simmons provides some nice eye candy while Kate del Castillo is sheer emotional power as Colin's ex-girlfriend. A treat is Leslie Bibb who adds a lightness and grounding as Meg while showing us a depth in her skill as an actor which we haven't really seen prior.

Directed by Sam Miller from a script by Aimee Lagos, the action is tight, the suspense and tension taut, escalating with palpable intensity. Production values are through the roof with a slick, sleek polish and originality, thanks in large part to cinematographer Michael Barrett's lensing with the Sony F camera, a camera that allows you to shoot night for night and use extremely minimal lighting, rather than create night during daylight. The result is spellbinding, creating a rich visual dynamic and saturation of color and light/shadow. The Sony F set the tonal bandwidth of the film and, according to Elba and Henson, aided their performances because of the night shoots and our natural body clocks.

Although there are some continuity issues and some events that bode disbelief, it doesn't detract from the white-knuckling terror that unfolds.

Directed by Sam Miller

Written by Aimee Lagos

Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Idris Elba, Leslie Bibb, Kate del Castillo


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