A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
FILM CRITIC Bob Rafelson's two best movies are "Five Easy Pieces" (1970) and "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1981), and his new film "No Good Deed" is like a mingling of their themes. From "Postman" comes hard-boiled American crime fiction, and from "Five Easy Pieces" and its musical family comes the cop played by Samuel L. Jackson, a diabetic who plays the cello. He is, in fact, looking forward to a week at a "fantasy camp" where he can play with Yo-Yo Ma, when fate intervenes.
Jackson's character, Jack Friar, is asked by a friend to help find her runaway daughter. He's assigned to grand theft auto and usually finds runaway cars, but he postpones his vacation to ask around in the last neighborhood where the girl was seen, and that leads him to help out Mrs. Quarre, a sweet little old lady who has fallen on her steps with bags of groceries. Once inside her house, he discovers the little old lady is not sweet, and that her criminal partners think the cop is looking for them. So they tie him to a chair, where he will spend most of the movie.
The story is based on "The House on Turk Street," a 1924 short story by Dashiell Hammett, whose work also inspired "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Thin Man." The noir origins are evident in Jackson's resigned, laconic hero, and in the character of Erin (Milla Jovovich), with a blond Veronica Lake haircut, who guards Jack, talks to him and eventually joins in a scene that improbably combines sex and the art of cello playing.
Friar, who was only trying to do a good deed, has walked into the final stages of a bank robbery. A gang led by the precise Tyrone (Stellan Skarsgard) and including the violent hothead Hoop (Doug Hutchinson) is about to commit a multimillion-dollar computer fraud with the help of an inside man named David (Jonathan Higgins), a bank official who thinks Erin is in love with him.