Review of Meeting Evil

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When John Fleton (Luke Wilson), a depressed suburban family man and recently fired realtor, offers to help a stranger, Richie (Samuel L. Jackson), with his car, John is sucked into a surreal, nightmarish murder spree that forces him to question everything about his life, his mode of behavior and the very nature of evil. Based on Thomas Berger's novel of the same name.
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Movie Review: "Meeting Evil" --

Rating: R (language, violent content)
Length: 89 minutes
Release Date: April 27, 2012
Directed by: Chris Fisher
Genre: Crime/Mystery/Drama
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

In "Meeting Evil," Samuel L. Jackson gets to shed the good guy/hero image he has played in so many roles and play someone who is almost pure evil. As Richie, he seems harmless at first to an unaware John (Luke Wilson), who is too busy with plenty of life problems to see that Richie is actually a very bad man.

The film begins with John being let go from the job that he was already failing miserably at. He was a real estate agent in a bad housing market and didn't let his wife Joanie (Leslie Bibb) know just how little he was earning in commissions. Debt began to mount and instead of telling Joanie, John drowned his sorrows in the bottom of a whiskey bottle.

After being let go, John returns to his house (which is in foreclosure) to see that Joanie has thrown him a surprise birthday party. Clearly, this is not a celebratory day for John, and he has no intention of playing the good husband. He is already cheating on Joanie with Tammy (Peyton List), so there is no need to pretend like things are going well. He lashes out at his family and guests, which quickly clears the party out. A distraught and disgusted Joanie decides to leave him alone for a while to clear his head.

Instead of clearing his head, he begins to drink and is already deep into a bottle of whiskey when Richie comes knocking at his door. His car won't start, and he is wondering if John could lend him a hand. Displaying none of the vitriol he had had earlier for his family, John tries to help him. He ends up burning his leg on the exhaust, which Richie makes happen by flooding the gas then dropping the clutch on the vehicle. He offers John a ride to the hospital to check on his burns, which John accepts.

The two don't end up at the hospital. They instead embark on what will be an increasingly tense and bloody joyride. Richie has a psychotic streak in him and takes it out on others through brutality and murder. John appears to be numb and does nothing to stop him, instead submitting to being a witness to the madness.

A lot of the film's tension is built by wondering just how far Richie will go and whether John will finally try to stop him. All the while, the audience is wondering why Richie is doing all of this. Is he really evil, perhaps a demon or a devil? Is there some other supernatural explanation for him? There are also hints that he could be a figment of John's imagination, which could have snapped under all the economic pressure he has been under lately.

Meanwhile, two local cops (Tracie Thoms and Muse Watson) are on the trail of John and Richie, trying to solve the crimes before the body count gets any higher. They eventually trace it back to John's house, where a beleaguered Joanie sends them packing with a fairly epic speech that would seem more at home coming out of the mouth of Samuel L. Jackson instead of hers.

The ending is resolved rather quickly after the crazy, day-long trip. It almost seems like director Chris Fisher wanted an excuse to make a movie that is basically a 90-minute crime spree. If that is what he intended, then he succeeded wildly. The audience has to sit back and enjoy the ride without thinking too much. There are some plot holes in his script that can easily be ignored if the audience is willing to just go with it.

The script was written by Fisher as an adaptation of the novel by Thomas Berger, a well-regarded crime writer. Berger wrote the original screenplay, but it was later rewritten by Fisher. One has to wonder how differently the film would have turned out had the original script been used instead.

"Meeting Evil" does a few things wrong but makes up for it with suspense and a little bit of humanity peaking through at the end. All of the actors are in fine form, especially Bibb as Joanie. This is a character that could have easily cracked or lost her spirit, considering all she has been through. Instead, her spunk shines through, making her the real character to root for throughout the movie.