True fact: Of the 14 movies Orlando Bloom has starred in that played theatrically in the United States, 11 were set in a fantasy world or the historical past, eight required his character to brandish a sword or bow, and two had him using a firearm. In every instance, he has been a good guy, or at least a charming rogue. So it’s unusual to see him as he appears in “The Good Doctor,” dressed like an ordinary physician in the present day, not a sword in sight, and doing things that are not entirely reputable. And the change is welcome! Bloom seems to relish the opportunity, delivering a solid performance in what proves to be a creepy, darkly funny bit of entertainment.
He is Dr. Martin Blake, a first-year resident at a Southern California hospital and an ambitious, pragmatic planner. He’s already thinking about which fellowships to apply for next year and how to keep his performance record spotless in the meantime. A transplant from England, he has done little to decorate or furnish his new beachside apartment, or really to do anything outside of his work at the hospital.
One of his patients, a teenage girl named Diane (Riley Keough), develops a crush on the handsome young doctor. Her parents and sister are likewise smitten, all the more when he cures Diane’s ailment and sends her home healthy. As a show of gratitude, they invite him over for dinner, where they continue to be taken in by his charm. Here is where the first evidences of Martin’s obsessive nature start to emerge, but the family doesn’t see them.
At work, Martin is viewed less favorably. A nurse, Theresa (Taraji P. Henson), thinks he’s arrogant because he thinks doctors should automatically be treated with respect. An orderly, Jimmy (Michael Peña), thinks he’s a humorless prig because he disapproves of Jimmy’s fondness for having sex with patients. Martin’s boss, Dr. Waylans (Rob Morrow), sees his potential but is amused by his aggressive go-getter attitude, the way tenured professors are amused by zealous freshmen.
And then what? And then you will have to wait and find out for yourself as Martin’s ambition and God complex — two characteristics not uncommon among physicians, and often found in the very best of them — take him in Machiavellian directions. Director Lance Daly (“Kisses”), working from a screenplay by John Enbom (writer for TV’s “Veronica Mars” and co-creator of “Party Down”), handles the film’s unusual tone remarkably well. Some sections are intended as dark humor; others are meant to be suspenseful or thrilling; some are a mixture of those elements — and nearly all of them work. While the film doesn’t have the scope or intensity of a heavy-hitting psychological thriller (it’s more like a made-for-TV version of one), it doesn’t lack conviction, either.
Bloom has yet to establish himself as a leading man. It wasn’t because of him, after all, that the “Lord of the Rings” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchises made billions of dollars. “The Good Doctor” probably won’t do it either. It’s too esoteric to be a blockbuster, even if it gets a wide theatrical release, and his character is too controversial. Bloom is about to return to more familiar territory in “The Hobbit” anyway. But if he wants to transition into more diverse roles, “The Good Doctor” will be worth highlighting on his resume.
B+ (1 hr., 25 min.; )