No Good Deed (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's notes in white:

This film is also known as The House on Turk Street, which is also the title of the loosely adapted source material, a short story written in the 1920s by Dashiell Hammett, the father of modern American detective fiction, creator of Sam Spade, The Continental Op, and The Thin Man.

Looking at the geographic locations of the reviews for this film, I was ensorcelled. When a film is in limited release, the published reviews will ordinarily be from New York and LA, and maybe the Austin Chronicle. For this film, the MRQE shows reviews from only three cities: Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Chicago. There are none from New York or L.A. That had to be one unorthodox marketing plan. Whatever the thinking behind it, it didn't work. Despite the direction of Oscar nominee Bob Rafelson (Five Easy Pieces), and the presence of Samuel L and Milla, the film bombed big-time in the States. The results don't get much worse than this. It opened in 402 theaters its first week, and grossed only $127,000. Do the math. $315 per theater. Playing four times a day, that's 28 showings - $11 per showing. That means an average of one and a half people watched it every time it screened. The good news? The studio didn't have to worry about bad "word of mouth". In comparison, Madonna's notorious stinkbomb, Swept Away, was in half as many theaters, and grossed three times as much.

The investors certainly didn't plan to recoup their money with a hot DVD. This one came out with no meaningful features at all, not even a widescreen version of the film, a fact which is made insulting to consumers by the fact that disc's only feature is a trailer - a widescreen trailer. {cough} Blowjob {cough}


Full nudity from Milla Jovovich, although the pubic shot is brief.

Here's one scene, as pictured on the widescreen trailer.

Here's the same scene pictured on the "pan 'n scanned" film.

Samuel L. Jackson plays a cop who has been asked to find a friend's runaway daughter. He delayed his vacation to do this good deed. When he started to look for the girl, he stumbled accidentally into a crackpot gang of bank robbers who thought he was looking for them. Milla Jovovich plays the femme fatale, a Russian former piano prodigy turned gun moll, whose contribution to the gang is her ability to make everyone think she is in love with him and him alone, including a bank officer who was essential to their plan.

At one point, Milla and Jackson played a piano/cello duet. Here's how that happened. Jackson is a cello-playing detective. Milla found out. Jackson was tied up in the criminal lair. Milla untied him, then held a gun on him and forced him to play. They bonded. She set down the gun so that he could give her a cello lesson. After the lesson, he went back to his bonds. No explanation. We see him free, talking to her, then we see the criminals doing their thing in the bank, then we see Jackson back in his bonds.

OK, let's think about that.

Let's say you believe that Jackson, suddenly unbound and no longer covered by a gun, is such an honorable man that he gave her a cello lesson instead of picking up the gun, arresting her, and escaping. OK, you're a gullible fool, because Samuel L. knew that the psychotic evil dudes would probably come back and kill him, and he also knew they were pulling off a massive bank job, but I'll be generous and call you a romantic, because Milla had saved his life earlier, and he owed her one.

But I still have one more question for you: how many criminal gangs keep a spare cello on hand?

Here's how that happened. Jackson is a diabetic who lapsed into a coma. Milla rifled through his IDs, found his address, went to his apartment, got his insulin, and rushed back to save his life.

Oh, and while she was there she noticed that he owned a cello, so she brought that, too. Just grabbed it on the way out ...

 ... by carrying a cello case larger than her own body.

It was an impulsive thing.

Oh, yeah, she also brought his sheet music, and his music stand.

DVD info from Amazon

  • no features, no widescreen

I don't even want to talk about the details of the actual robbery, in which the stupid psychotic guy said stuff like "I found that the power source is guarded by an unexpected security back-up that will need to be disabled. It's controlled by the main computer, and I'll have to hack into it. It'll take me an extra 2-3 minutes." Geez, imagine how fast a smart guy could have done it.


No Good Deed is less than the sum of its parts. It was given a brief theatrical release, and is now on video. The ingredients look promising. We have a plot based on a Dashiel Hammett short story (The House on Turk Street), Samuel Jackson as a diabetic cello-playing police detective, Stellan Skarsgard and Doug Hutchison as bad guys, and Milla Jovovich as a femme fatale. All of this is directed by Bob Rafelson (Five Easy Pieces, The Postman Always Rings Twice.).

I found it a little slow, and didn't relate to Jackson's character at all.

Jackson is supposed to be going to band camp for vacation, but agrees to try an locate a neighbor's runaway daughter, when he happens into a house inhabited by an oddball gang in the last stages of a $10M bank swindle. They assume he is after them, tie him to a chair, and hold him prisoner. Stellan Skarsgard is the cool mastermind behind the scheme, Doug Hutchison is a hothead muscleman, and both think they will end up with Jovovich, as does the bank officer who is their inside man. She has the ability to charm any man when she wants something. When it is time for the heist, she is left to guard Jackson. The two get to know each other, and she reveals that she had been a concert pianist in Russia. There is also an old couple in on the heist.

Things, of course, start going wrong, until only Skarsgard, Jovovich and Jackson are left, and there is a chance that Jackson and Jovovich will end up together.

The Critics Vote ...

  • General USA consensus: two stars. Ebert 3/4, 1.5/5. One of those three cities where the film got reviewed was Chicago, and that happens to be the home town of Roger Ebert, so pretty much nobody reviewed this except the best known reviewer on the planet. Strange stuff.  (He liked it. God knows why. He was the only one.)

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It couldn't have done much worse, having grossed $127,000 on 402 screens its first week. It finished at $180,000. The budget was (sucks pinkie) ... one trillion dollars. Actually, it was $12 million.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C- (Tuna) to D (Scoop). Scoop says, "genre fans won't be tolerant of the ludicrous plot elements. Mainstream filmgoers will find it slow, boring and contrived. Check that. I used the wrong tense - they DID find it boring and contrived. It's a bad movie, even for a die-hard Samuel L fan like me. There's only one reason to watch it: Milla naked."

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