Despite its straight to DVD status, Meeting Evil (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 89 minutes, Rated R) has its moments, especially if you dig psychological thrillers with a bit of a twist. For a low budget feature, the picture has a pretty solid cast, most notably Samuel L. Jackson, who spends most of the narrative terrorizing Luke Wilson.
Wilson plays John, a real estate agent who can’t even make payments on his own house. At wit’s end, John is on the outs with his wife (Leslie Bibb), who may actually be having an affair with the pool man. Enter Richie (Jackson), an intimidating, sharp dressed man whose passion is driving his slick Pontiac GTO. After coercing John into a little joy ride, Richie engages in a community killing spree which leaves John as the prime suspect. Cold Case vet (and Death Proof actress) Tracie Thoms and Muse Watson are the cops investigating the murders, with Mad Men star Peyton List (she’s Roger Sterling’s younger ex-wife) also chiming in as John’s lady on the side.
Director/writer Chris Fisher attempts to develop a slow and steady mood with the thriller, interspersing bits of intentional humor even during some of the story’s most tense moments. The stab at mixing comedy and corpses comes off as a bit forced, but at least Jackson, chewing scenery with his trademark aplomb, delivers such showy lines as “The world hurts people, John. I come in after the hurt. All I do is kill people who are already dead.”
Meeting Evil’s greatest strength lies in the mystery. Is Richie just a figment of John’s imagination? Was he created for John to justify all the slayings? Or is Richie just a cold blooded killer, saving John and his family as his final victims?
At a brisk enough 89 minutes, those questions popped in my head, and watching Bibb act like a sharp tongued harridan (she gives Thoms a verbal dress down during questioning) was also diverting. Is Meeting Evil a career highpoint for Jackson and Wilson? Not by a longshot. Still, Meeting Evil succeeds as a watchable thriller that may keep you guessing; and if you’d pay to watch Samuel L. Jackson recite the phone book then Meeting Evil isn’t such a bad choice. My only complaint: the DVD is completely threadbare - just a few trailers and no featurettes or audio commentary to speak of.
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posted by Greg Srisavasdi (Twitter: @Gsrisavasdi)