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Meeting Evil

2012 | 89 min | R

Meeting Evil


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Movie appeal

Psychological thriller-



Theatrical release date

 04 May, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Meeting Evil Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, April 6, 2012

“Meeting Evil” is a film that requires its audience to simply shut down and go along with the experience. Any outside intrusion of common sense immediately destroys the viewing event, leaving the picture best served to those able to swallow massive leaps in logic and sketchy characterization. Though not without a handful of sincerely intense scenes, “Meeting Evil” is a missed opportunity for a twisted ride with a confrontational stranger, gradually working its way to a wasteful anticlimax when the entire movie appears to be gunning for something grandiose, pitting enigmatic malevolence against the vanilla might of an average man with ordinary problems. There’s something about seeing Samuel L. Jackson with a gun and an attitude that promises more than this meager effort is willing to offer.

A real estate agent unable to control the mounting debt that’s burying his estranged family, John (Luke Wilson) is nearing the end of his rope, hiding too many secrets from wife Joanie (Leslie Bibb), leaving him an alcoholic wreck. Into his life comes Richie (Samuel L. Jackson), a belligerent visitor who sweeps John up into his displays of authority and intimidation, urging the suburban failure to follow his lead. When these acts of control grow increasingly violent and murderous, John finds himself paralyzed by fear, unsure how Richie will react to any personal challenge. As the bodies pile up, Richie indicates interest in visiting Joanie, leaving John to panic alongside mistress Tammy (Peyton List), who’s also found herself in the mystery man’s line of fire.

Although initially written by novelist Thomas Berger (“Little Big Man,” “Neighbors”), the screenplay for “Meeting Evil” by Chris Fisher (who also directs) turns nuanced psychological study and firm thematic examination into stale Stephen King leftovers. Here’s a tale of a beaten, submissive sad sack provoked into living by an unknown opponent, a devil who wants to encourage and murder John in the same moment, taking the hapless businessman down a grim path of self-awareness -- an education rooted in bullying and execution. The plot is tempting, displaying a careful obscuring of true intent in the opening act, providing the filmmaker with a sizable pull of mystery that promotes interest in the direction of the story. For the first act, “Meeting Evil” establishes a chilling tone of coercion, as Richie continually prods John into action against the service and professional types who seek to break down his spirit through flagrant disrespect.

Escalation in “Meeting Evil” is fumbled by Fisher, who pushes the action too far, altering John from a man shocked into complacency to a potential moron, lacking the motivation to simply bolt from Richie’s presence when the situation turns grim. I half-expected the script to introduce a supernatural element to Richie’s powers of control, but there’s nothing like that to overturn the picture. Fisher doesn’t think John’s awareness of danger all the way through, piling on Richie’s behavioral whoppers to a point where anyone would either run screaming or attempt to kill their kidnapper. This is a tale of passivity, but one without tight corners to help understand John’s frazzled mental experience in a profound way. Cheapening the effort is Richie, gradually transformed into a serial killer type, theatrically announcing his presence by whistling “Dixie,” adding to his obvious aura of threat.

Jackson is uncharacteristically loose as Richie, walking comfortably around a role that isn’t challenging, yet requires an elevation of charm. He’s amusing to watch, hitting a few beats of terror as this sinister figure commands respect from his simpleton prisoner, played with disconcerting fatigue by Wilson. Also contributing fine work is Bibb as John’s surprisingly venomous wife, able to hold her own against outsiders hoping to break her family’s spirit. The film needed more of her spark.

There’s a procedural element to “Meeting Evil,” following two cops (Tracie Thoms and Muse Watson) as they follow Richie’s trail of bloodshed to John’s doorstep, but the addition of characters to a crowded film only distracts from the basic rush of pressure, ultimately providing the movie with a disappointingly pat ending. “Meeting Evil” carries menace but rarely does it know what to do with it, stripping the potency of this impromptu association by giving in to absurdity.

Starring: Luke Wilson, Samuel L. Jackson, Leslie Bibb
Director: Chris Fisher

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