Before I get into one of the most boneheaded PR moves ever made, I want to address a fact I find jaw-dropping: Idris Elba plays an escaped killer in No Good Deed, a movie certain to rank among the year's most repulsive, creatively bankrupt and instantly forgettable.
Last year Elba starred in the story of Nelson Mandela. Is this not the career equivalent of plummeting down an elevator shaft? What must your agent say to talk you into such a misstep? "Idris, sweetheart, you've made award-winning television ('The Wire') and portrayed one of the most beloved figures in history. It's time to prove you can make a complete piece of crap."
Before you say that things don't get that loony even in La-La Land, let's get back to the boneheaded PR move. With 12 hours' notice, Screen Gems canceled all press screenings of this home-invasion thriller. The explanation proved even more boneheaded: "The film contains a plot twist that we do not want to reveal, as it will affect the audience's experience when they see the film in theaters."
You know what affects the audience's experience when they see a film in theaters? Sitting through derivative, senselessly violent and shamelessly contrived rubbish. If director Sam Miller (Among Giants) and writer Aimee Lagos had an intriguing or original idea, it's on the cutting-room floor.
Elba plays a convict who's denied parole after a board member deems him a "malignant narcissist." He overpowers armed guards on the way back to prison. Sure, he was cuffed, but you can't expect a minor detail like that to stop a determined malignant narcissist.
Lagos' script resorts to portentous corn like "There's a storm coming." The line is spoken by a privileged Atlanta housewife (Taraji P. Henson) who's alone with her two kids because her husband's out of town and because, you know, this is a formulaic home-invasion thriller. Indeed, the night turns dark and stormy, but we know Lagos is alluding to Elba. Is there anything lamer than a Lifetime movie that uses meteorological metaphors?
Anyhoo, the killer knocks on Henson's door and, naturally, she invites him right in. Far be it from me to blame the victim. But let's just say, by the time Henson's character discovers the stranger has cut the phone line, she's done so many stupid things one can't help but view the ensuing mayhem with less than maximum sympathy.
Said mayhem consists to a mindboggling degree of Elba and Henson conking each other over the head with household objects and the director cutting away to shots of lightning. There isn't a single believable development, and both consistently do things that make zero sense. (Elba takes the time to roll the body of an officer he's shot out of sight, for example, then leaves his vehicle by the side of the highway with its lights flashing. OK.)
The movie literally gets dumber by the minute; 84 of them feel like an eternity. When that top-secret plot twist rolls around, it does prove shocking — shocking how ridiculous and irrelevant it is.
The real reason Screen Gems canceled press screenings for the film, as everyone in the industry knows, is that it came out the same week as the video of Ray Rice savagely beating his girlfriend. The studio sensed it might not be the best time to push a movie about a psycho savagely beating women.
The suits had the right idea. They just failed to carry it through. Their mistake wasn't scrapping the picture's press screenings. It was failing to scrap them all.