These days superhero movies and television shows are plentiful. Marvel/Disney is putting out around seven MCU projects per year now. Warner Brothers, though in flux, is still cranking out the DCEU films, and animated films. And all the streaming services are doing their fair share of superhero projects as well. That includes Amazon Prime. They have a film called Samaritan starring Sylvester Stallone opening this week, trying to capitalize on the superhero craze once again. After their success with The Boys and The Invincible.
This film has a built-in backstory with the so-called hero Samaritan and the villain Nemesis. They had an epic battle and one was thought dead while the other was thought to have disappeared. They are brothers which is a twist in the superhero genre. One of the brothers is Joe Smith (Sylvester Stallone); he’s living a mundane existence in a little apartment in a bad section of town. He works as a garbage man to make ends meet. Until a kid, Sam Cleary (Javon Walton) and his mother Tiffany (Dascha Polanco) involve him in their personal lives. And their struggle.
Every superhero story has to have a villain and who better than Edwin (Pilou Asbaek, Overlord) his girlfriend Sil (Sophia Tatum) and his assistant/thug Reza (Moises Arias) They have a plan to take over the city and become the new Nemesis. A reporter Albert Casler (Martin Starr) has been trying to figure out what really happened on that fateful day all those years ago. The kid may have some answers for this intrepid reporter if it doesn’t kill him first. The director Julius Avery and writer Bragi F Schut have set all the pieces in place for a good superhero story except it’s not.
Samaritan is a convoluted mess of a story with characters, especially the villains I didn’t care about in the least. The kid and his family were interesting but more on the annoying side than anything. He could never choose if he was a good kid or bad until it was too late and the city was thrust into chaos. This film couldn’t decide what it was trying to be. A superhero origin story or a story with an existing backstory that advances what has already been established. It needed to pick one or the other and not both because having both in one film was too much to handle as a viewer.
Sylvester Stallone has played his fair share of good guys in films with Rambo and Rocky amongst the most notable characters of his career. He just hasn’t played an actual superhero even though those two well-known characters are superheroes in their own right. The character of Joe Smith is such a cookie-cutter character until a twist happens at the end of the film. The viewers are invested in him until then but I didn’t buy this twist one bit. The filmmakers didn’t give me enough to believe in so when the twist happened I was in shock and awe. Stallone didn’t even care about it either because he never changes his demeanor in the film. He’s this one-note character who is very bland and uninteresting.
Samaritan tries to be different while also being cookie-cutter from so many other superhero films I’ve seen before. Stallone doesn’t bring anything new to a genre that is starting to get tiresome. The acting is fine and the characters are somewhat interesting. I’m buying the story until the right up until the twist happens and then I’m completely thrown out of this film. The villains are one-note and throw-away characters. The director and writer didn’t know what kind of film they were trying to make so instead they combined a bunch of elements into one film and it’s too much and doesn’t all work. The least of which is the terrible visual effects.
1 1/2 stars
Dan Skip Allen
Amazon Prime Video August 26th