Samaritan is a promising start to a potential streaming franchise.
This review of the Amazon film Samaritan (2022) does not contain spoilers.
Samaritan has had a long and windy road to its release. The latest film from Overlord director Julius Avery had several dates for prime scheduling to become a blockbuster. Samaritan was set to be released around two major holidays in 2020. Then, even a summer slot after Memorial Day in June 2021. However, with the pandemic and being caught in acquisition limbo — the film was acquired by Amazon after buying MGM last year — it finally streams on Prime Video.
The Sylvester Stallone action vehicle has a fun premise. For the most part, the filmmakers deliver a fresh take and twist on the superhero genre. But the final act’s repetitive nature becomes taxing, to say the least.
Mr. Stallone, a legendary Hollywood action superstar and once the most bankable Hollywood star in the world, has had a run of awful action films in the past decade. From the Rambo reboot, The Escape Plan “franchise,” and the genuinely forgettable Backtrace, he hasn’t had a solid action hit since The Expendable’s first rodeo. One thing the film has working for it is the script. Bragi Schut brings a built-in fanbase to the movie by turning the story into a series of graphic novels. His story centers around Samaritan, a heroic vigilante killed by his brother, Nemesis, years prior, and the city has not been the same.
The story starts with Sam Clearly (Javon Walton), a thirteen-year-old who lives with his single parent (played by In the Heights Dascha Polanco), struggling to make ends meet. So much so that he takes odd jobs stripping copper wire from abandoned buildings with his buddy, Jace (Abraham Clinkscales). Even the more dangerous kind, like being a distraction for the small-time hood, Reza (Moises Arias), who works for a psychopath named Cyrus (Julius Avery player Pilou Asbaek).
To pass the time, Sam has his head in the clouds investigating conspiracy theories of where Samaritan may have gone if he had survived. That is where Stallone’s Joe comes in. A weathered and grey construction worker walks around clunkily as if his legs need to be replaced. The more Sam focuses on him, the closer he focuses on Joe and the large bite Joe has for scaring the child off.
Avery’s film is far from any superhero origin or even redemption story. Without giving away the ending, the premise is Sam wanting to find Samaritan so that he can bring hope back to the city. That’s nothing new; notably, it’s the arc of Nolan’s Batman franchise. Where the story excels is Javon Walton’s Sam needling Joe until he cannot take it anymore. Their exchange is entertaining, as is the script that follows the teenager’s investigation. With some classic Stallone action — think Judge Dredd’s persona without gadgets and grumpier than usual — the whole experience is such a throwback. It feels refreshing.
The film has two big reveals that are well executed, even though the second one is obvious. I mean, it’s the only way the story can separate itself from other superhero films to be interesting. Although, Samaritan‘s third act is overplayed and too long. Now, that’s common. The action sequences are repetitive and begin to drag the experience down a bit.
Not to mention, the actors running around in a factory don’t seem to be affected by the Backdraft setting. The building is engulfed in flames, but they never cough from smoke. Nor do they sweat from the heat. And you have the fact that for some odd reason, no one is asking where Nemesis is, only Samaritan. Doesn’t he garner some interest? The result is enjoyable. However, it may involve a shoulder shrug. It’s perfectly fine, but it could have been so much more.
Amazon’s Samaritan is a mildly enjoyable action film. In addition, Avery’s latest has immense promise, primarily if Amazon invests the time and money for a streaming franchise. I, for one, hope they take the time to develop a script that uses the third-act twist to their advantage.
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