(director: Bob Rafelson; screenwriters: based on the short story The House on Turk Street” by Dashiell Hammett/Christopher Canaan, Steve Barancik; cinematographer: Juan Ruiz-Anchía; editor: William Scharf; music: Jeff Beal; cast: Samuel L. Jackson (Jack Friar), Milla Jovovich (Erin), Stellan Skarsgard (Tyrone Abernathy),  Joss Ackland  (Mr. Quarre), Grace Zabriskie (Mrs. Quarre), Doug Hutchison (Hoop), Jonathan Higgins (David Brewster), Shannon Lawson (Amy); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producer: David Braun/Herb Narras/Maxime Rémillard; Mac Releasing; 2002)

“Flawed but passable noir.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The talented Bob Rafelson (“Five Easy Pieces”/”Blood and Wine”) directs this flawed but passable noir, based on the short story The House on Turk Street” by Dashiell Hammett and unrealistically scripted by Christopher Canaan and Steve Barancik. It involves a nice guy, diabetic, cello-playing, auto theft police detective, Jack Friar (Samuel Jackson), who reluctantly agrees to cancel his cello-playing ‘fantasy camp’ week vacation in the Berkshires in order to help a distraught neighbor locate her runaway 15-year-old daughter who is sleeping with an older sleaze on Turk Street. He pays for his good deed by becoming a tied-up hostage when he stumbles into the home of bond thieves after helping an old lady pick-up her spilled groceries from the ground and they think he’s after them.

Hammett’s story is updated to the present. It involves a sophisticated $10 million bank robbery scheme using computer technology. The bank robbers are a dysfunctional low-level crime family headed by the cagey Tyrone Abernathy (Stellan Skarsgard) and the sexy Russian piano prodigy ex-prostitute Erin (Milla Jovovich), the vulnerable girlfriend Tyrone looks after, and the volatile dim-witted bleached blond psychopath Hoop (Doug Hutchison). Hoop is crazy about Erin, but because of the vindictive boss tries restraining his sexual impulses even as she flirts with him. Maintaining their suburban eastern home is a chatty and seemingly harmless elderly couple, using the alias of the Quarres (Joss Ackland & Grace Zabriskie).

Erin is left alone to watch the cop while her cohorts hit the bank, She panics when Jack slips into a diabetic coma, and goes to his apartment to bring back his insulin and his cello (unbelievable). Back at her place she unties him for a sensual cello lesson and then he willingly goes back into being tied up in a chair again after the cello lesson (unbelievable). We also learn that Mr. Quarre, a Korean War flyboy, will help the trio escape by flying them to the Cayman Islands after the heist.

The plan is carried out because a bank insider was pulled into the job. He is the love sick naive loan officer David Brewster (Jonathan Higgins), who is mistakenly doing it for the love of someone who doesn’t love him.

Things get botched after David and Erin screw on his insistence before the escape flight. But the jealous Hoop goes into a tirade and beats David to death. With this mishap, Tyrone changes escape plans and instead double crosses the Quarres and heads for the Canadian border by car. But first he must complete their money transfer scheme and get the password on the bank disk that only the departed David knew.

The story revolves around double crosses. It also means taking the Skarsgard character as a menacing gang leader figure and the Jovovich character as both a pitiful victim of circumstances and a manipulative bitch. Both talented actors are not convincing. Jackson, as usual, is the cool dude, who uses his wits to make the best of a bad situation. He’s OK for the part, but the weak script leaves him with an unconvincing role. Ackland and Zabriskie offer comic relief as sweet but dangerous criminals, and are dandy. While Hutchison is good as your standard B movie flashy psycho, who keeps things nasty.

Samuel L. Jackson and Milla Jovovich in No Good Deed (2002)

REVIEWED ON 1/29/2017       GRADE: B-