The superhero genre rules the world. Cinema and television have been invaded by a genre that can transmute into whatever shape it needs to in order to tell its stories. They have the advantage of being well-loved by general audiences, which translates into big money. There are a lot of incentives to make superhero stories on the screen and on this occasion, Sylvester Stallone, Rocky himself, jumps on the bandwagon. Let’s review Samaritan, a new superhero film arriving in theaters and on Amazon Prime Video.
As we said before, the superhero genre can adapt itself by adding elements and tropes from many other genres. By doing this, it makes sure that the stories feel somewhat fresh even if, at their core, they are something we have all seen time and time again. In Samaritan, the story adds the “hero on retirement” trope to the mix, and while everything around it feels very familiar, the addition of Stallone as one of the main characters in the movie really brings everything together.
Samaritan is directed by Julius Avery and stars Sylvester Stallone, Javon Walton, Pilou Asbaek, and Dascha Polanco. The film tells the story of Granite City as a rundown place that saw decades ago the rivalry between two superpowered individuals; Nemesis and Samaritan. Nemesis is the bad guy, and Samaritan is the good guy, the hero of the people. While the reports say they both died in their final clash, Sam, a young boy living in the city, believes that he has found that Samaritan lives and that it is none other than his neighbor.
The old hero being called from retirement is quite a compelling trope. It gives the character a ton of backstory, and at the same time, it opens the door for future growth. The call to adventure is not always easy to accept, but once the hero does, then the wheels start turning and the results are always fascinating. Samaritan might not be at the same level as other films that used the trope, like The Unforgiven, just to name an example, but Avery knows how to make a simple, entertaining movie, and that is what Samaritan is.
A couple of years ago, Avery presented himself as the director of Overload, another genre pulp story that ended up being quite entertaining. Avery does the same with Samaritan and stretches his budget as much as he can. Samaritan still feels like a mid-budget film, but the director and his team manage to go the extra mile, and in the end, Samaritan feels a bit more expensive than it should. The visual effects towards the end are a bit sketchy, but because of the nature of the film, they don’t feel out of place.
Of course, the movies would not be entertaining if we didn’t have good characters to follow along with. Stallone proves once again how he became a movie star. The actor’s charisma is just out of this world. Stallone is nearing the age of 80, and yet, his presence and gravitas are as strong as ever. Every time he is on-screen, you can feel that he is going to say or do something meaningful for the plot. This is funny because even if he doesn’t, everything coming out of his performance elevates the film.
Javon Walton is the other protagonist of the film, and he does a very good job standing next to a figure like Stallone. Of course, the young actor is not a match for Stallone in terms of charisma and screen presence, but he doesn’t ruin the movie at all, which sometimes happens with young actors. His role as Sam is never annoying, and yes, he does make some very questionable decisions during the movie, but they totally fit the lost youth stereotype that the movie is trying to play with his character.
Meanwhile, Asbaek has become the default bad guy in many recent movies and TV shows. His run as Euron Greyjoy might not have been up to par with the books, but the show really made the actor a known face, which has placed him on many casting lists. He is everywhere. Let’s hope he doesn’t get typecast in the role of the crazy bad guy. The actor has proven that he can do other things as well. Polanco does well in the role of a young, struggling mother, but her role is quite limited.
When it comes to delivering action, Samaritan throws some punches. None of them are knocked outs, but they work efficiently. There aren’t many action sequences, but the ones that are there are very well shot, and they make it clear that Avery has an eye for action. Maybe, if he was allowed more time and money, he could really come up with some crazy cool stuff. Let’s hope he has the chance to do that in a later project.
Samaritan never strays from its pulpy origins and doesn’t really do anything new. However, Stallone carries the film on his shoulders and makes the more predictable things in the film still feel good and compelling. The visual effects are not that solid, but somehow, they don’t really matter because the movie is not focusing on them either. Samaritan is all about being fun and telling a familiar story within the confines of the genre that is ruling the world of cinema and TV.