I can be a bit of a Samuel L. Jackson apologist at times. Though his choices are sometimes silly — No Good Deed, Snakes on a Plane — I probably could watch him read the Yellow Pages and give it a good review. His latest foray into folly is Meeting Evil, costarring Luke Wilson and Leslie Bibb as pawns to his devilish psychopath, Richie.
Richie comes a'calling one day out of the blue, knocking on the door of alcoholic real estate agent John (Wilson) asking for a push to get his dashing but disabled GTO back on the road. John obliges, only to find himself taken prisoner by the mysterious, nattily dressed driver. He escapes briefly, only to find himself once again in the clutches of the well-spoken stranger (nobody enunciates pointed threats like Jackson) who warns, "We are in this together" and forces the abductee into some unwilling aiding and abetting. A serial killing guts 'n glee spree ensues, while more and more is revealed about John's home life and why he was targeted to "meet evil."
Pretty much a tango of tempers, Richie and John spar throughout the film, and while lots happens (and blood and brains splatter, spatter and spew), not much is explained or justified. It's also difficult to grasp a tonal straw as you watch and wonder — is Meeting Evil a horror movie about the devil doling out punishment to a minion? Is it a moralistic crime drama and Richie is like Jigsaw but without Billy and the bike? It is a straight-up crime thriller, or a psychological mind manipulation? To me, it really didn't matter (though I suppose if hard-pressed I'd describe it as a noir-inspired horror potboiler). I was just enjoying the view.
Highly stylized and featuring some of the most beautifully composed cinematography I've seen this side of a direct-to-disc release (DP Marvin V. Rush has mostly worked in TV, which has obviously served him well in making the small screen seem cinematic), Meeting Evil is definitely over the top and not for everyone. But if you don't mind style over substance, a bit of the old cat-and-mouse, and you enjoy watching Samuel L. Jackson making people squirm, then hop into the GTO, strap up, and hold on.
= = =
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson