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No Good Deed

While looking for a runaway teen as favor to a neighbor, off-duty cop Jack Friar (Samuel L. Jackson) stumbles onto a house full of criminals planning a bank robbery. Led by the diabolical Tyrone (Stellan Skarsgård), the gang includes the obligatory loose cannon, Hoop (The Green Mile's Doug Hutchinson) and equally obligatory beautiful-but-possibly-treacherous woman, Erin (Milla Jovavich). Jack, who was only trying to do a good deed before going on vacation to cello fantasy camp, ends up tied to a chair while all the other characters walk around the house, acting at him. Oh, and Jack's a diabetic in need of his insulin. And Erin, it turns out, is a piano prodigy and she gets it into her head to bring back Jack's cello when she goes to his apartment to get his insulin, so they get to play together, which turns into smooching for no good reason whatsoever. Very loosely based on Dashiell Hammett's 1924 short story "The House on Turk Street," Bob Rafelson's No Good Deed (2002) is far duller than it should be, with Jackson playing a world-weary hero but instead looking like he's depressed and fatigued to be bothering with the picture at all. The film's bank heist is absurd, Skarsgård and Hutchinson play one-note psychos, and only Jovavich seems to really care about what she's doing, making Erin a complex combination of conniving vixen and trapped little girl. Perhaps it was the opportunity to work with Rafelson, who directed Five Easy Pieces over 30 years ago, that attracted such a marvelous cast to this mediocre bust of a film, but despite Jackson's over-engineered predicament and the actors involved — and even despite a ridiculously contrived scene with Jack trying to escape while Erin takes a shower, enabling Rafelson to get Jovavich naked — the film lacks anything to hold interest. It's pretty to look at, though, thanks to cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchiá's use of indirect lighting and rich colors. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of No Good Deed offers a very clean transfer in full-screen (1.33:1) only. The picture is occasionally quite soft, whether due to the transfer or Anchiá's camerawork. The colors are vibrant, however, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is fine, this being a very talky film without much in the way of high-end sound effects. No extras, keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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