In Meeting Evil, John (Luke Wilson), an estate agent with a pleasant family and a nice, suburban house, has his life shaken when a mysterious stranger (Samuel L Jackson dressed as a Quaker) knocks on his door. The stranger, called Richie, ropes John into a crime spree and gets him in deeper and deeper trouble with the law, but who is he and where did he come from?
Meeting Evil benefits from its washed out visual style, and the sense of unease that permeates the film from the music as well as the hostile people of the town in which John lives. Samuel L Jackson is also good as Richie, even if most of the other actors fall somewhat short of the mark. Luke Wilson looks like a fatter Steve Carrell and fails to express the requisite level of distress his character experiences.
The plot of having an innocent man drawn into crimes they haven’t committed is one that has been well-worn elsewhere, from a number of Hitchcock films to the more recent Phone Booth and The Game. The problem with Meeting Evil is that, unlike those I’ve just mentioned, it’s happy to give no real explanation for what happens.
Even simply making Richie a kind of observer who seeks to right the wrongs of the world would have been more satisfying than the complete lack of explanation that’s offered. I have no problem with an ambiguous ending, but when a series of creepy or unusual events happens, and then just sort of stops, it leaves you feeling like the writers just couldn’t be bothered to come up with a plausible explanation. We don’t even find out who Richie was, or the extent to which what he does to John is planned and deliberate. The audience is left with a lot of questions, although by the end you’ll probably stop caring what the answers are.
Thematically, it’s clearly another examination of modern masculinity. The character of John is a real estate agent, and is remarkably compliant, about as far from an alpha male character it’s possible to be. This makes him incredibly boring and unsympathetic as he displays no initiative whatsoever in trying to resist the series of events Richie is taking him through. His wife has more spunk, but is also pretty dull and let down by an unconvincing performance by Leslie Bibb.
Altogether disappointing, it’s no wonder this passed well below the radar on its 2012 release, grossing just $181 in its opening weekend. What is a wonder is why Samuel L Jackson agreed to be in it.