In Meeting Evil, estate agent John (Luke Wilson), is shaken out of his mundane suburban life 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 and 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.
The plot of having an innocent man drawn into crimes is one that’s 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, it’s happy to give no real explanation for what happens.
Even simply making Richie a Phone Booth-esque 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. 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 an examination of modern masculinity. The character of John is a real estate agent, and is remarkably compliant, about as far from an alpha male as it’s possible to be. This makes him incredibly boring as he displays no initiative whatsoever in trying to resist the series of events Richie is taking him through.
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.