Samaritan – New Superhero Setting, Same Stallone, as 40 Years Ago

MOVIE REVIEW – Sylvester Stallone is 76 years old, but he’s still in great shape, and with this film, he saw it as the right time to enter the world of comic book superheroes. The Samaritan is an actual (albeit not very popular) comic book hero, so there was potential for the veteran action star to step out of his comfort zone, but “Sly” felt it was better to stay on the beaten track.



“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” goes the saying, which holds true to the utmost for the retired Stallone. The basic concept of Samaritan, a half-superhero film and half-anti-superhero film, would not be a bad one, but the Sylvester Stallone-directed film is so slow from start to finish, so ‘grandfatherly’, so dragged out, and so irredeemably clichéd that even most Stallone fans will fall asleep at the chance. The film by director Julius Avery (and screenwriter Bragi F. Schut) builds on a late, big punchline, which does add an interesting twist to the film, but up to that point, it can only manage to bring a very mediocre standard not only in the superhero genre, but even among B-movies of the 1980s, with motifs and cliché-heads ‘borrowed’ from other films and video games.



A lonely, grumpy superhero and a young boy who makes friends – sound familiar?


While we’ve already known the basic story from the trailers – Stallone is a super-powered loner hero who is mistaken for the slain superhero Samaritan by a young boy, Sam (Javon Walton) – they’ve left out some key details that are revealed in the animated opening, narrated by Sam. A couple of decades earlier, Granite City (rough and tumble Atlanta) was thrown into chaos thanks to an invincible pair of twins who stretch out in horribly out-of-character metal costumes in one or two scenes. (Apologies to any fans of the comics.)

One of the brothers, Samaritan, supposedly fought for good, while the other, named Nemesis, just wreaked havoc with a magic hammer forged from his hatred of Samaritan. Both were said to have died in a fire, and even though neither had been seen for a long time, they left an indelible mark on the city – or rather, their graffitied logos left their mark on the walls or rubbish bins. Some evoke the heroism of the Samaritan and the meanness of Nemesis. Others, such as local gangster Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), with his tattoos of Nemesis, believe that Samaritan was the protector of the rich and powerful, while Nemesis was the warrior of the people.

This otherwise interesting backstory is not overly elaborated; in other words: we only hear it from the character’s mouths, but we don’t see any of it in the form of a scene. The main story seems to be that Sam is searching for Samaritan, whom he idealises and who he believes is still alive for reasons unknown reasons. After Sam has already “run into a hole” a few times, he is now convinced that Samaritan is Joe, the grumpy, lonely old garbage man who lives next door, so he hangs around the old man, who, of course (as we know from the trailers) turns out to have superpowers. We’ve seen plenty of stories like this or similar where this is much better developed, with natural chemistry between the characters: Leon the Pro, The Defender (with Denzel Washington), or in the world of video games (and soon series), The Last of Us etc. etc.



Climbing the mountains of clichés


Cyrus, the antagonistic protagonist – who initially takes Sam under his wing – is not a very original evil character and speaks in much the same clichés about the Samaritan, the nemesis and their supposed impact on the city as the film newsreaders who also pontificate about inequality. On the other hand, his social rebellion has no basis for making it interesting – he’s the same one-dimensional evil gang leader as all the characters in the eighties. Cyrus plans to resurrect Nemesis while speaking in the pseudo-revolutionary tone of Bane, played by Tom Hardy, from The Dark Knight Rises, and even wearing a similar bomber jacket and stealing Nemesis’s welding mask from a police detention centre.

The plot also has very little to do with Stallone’s character, a garbage man called Joe Smith, who collects and repairs analogue relics such as old radios in his spare time. It’s a hidden hobby befitting a supposed superhero (although Samaritan and Nemesis don’t look much like comic book heroes), but Joe’s involvement in the story is almost incidental and is limited to being egged on by other characters such as Sam and Cyrus in the hope of revealing his identity.



Pity, as the world would be interesting


As far as the film’s visual design is concerned, the makers didn’t even try too hard with the visual effects. Granite City, on the other hand, at least looks like a real place plagued by real poverty, but the direction puts its problems on display in front of a much less interesting story about whether Sam will convince Joe to admit he is the Samaritan. The music, composed by Jed Kurzel and Kevin Kiner, builds commendably in intensity, but nothing on screen rises to match it.

And as for Stallone’s performance, we see the same sleepy, beady-eyed, grumpy action hero Sly, puffing out clichéd wisdom, as we saw in most of his films 40 years ago. Stallone seems to be perhaps even more bored with his own character than we are, which is hardly surprising, given that Joe does not do, say or act anything that would suggest any meaningful self-reflection beyond the simple facts of his secret identity.



Missed opportunity


The Samaritan would probably fit into the wave of ‘realistic’ superhero films of the late 2000s/early 2010s, in response to the early period of the cultural dominance of Marvel and DC, and could therefore represent a kind of late ‘revolution’. Still, it has nothing unique perspective on the genre nor anything to say about the moral dimensions it constantly pushes in its dialogue.

A better screenplay or direction could support the prolonged revelation with a story of repentance or metamorphosis, but the film misses this opportunity entirely. Stallone never hints at any meaningful self-reflection beyond the bare facts of secret identity in his narration or performance. What remains is a B-grade retro action film, the kind we have seen a thousand times before from Sylvester Stallone or other similar action heroes.



Direction - 4.8
Actors - 5.4
Story - 5.2
Visuels/Action - 5.2
Ambience - 5.6



Sylvester Stallone's superhero film Samaritan is a predictable and clichéd retro action movie, to which the comic book superhero motif adds little. Moreover, we have seen this film a thousand times before, with a better story, vision and actors. We can only recommend it to Stallone fans or those who want nothing more than the nostalgia of the action movies of the eighties and nineties.

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BadSector is a seasoned journalist for more than twenty years. He communicates in English, Hungarian and French. He worked for several gaming magazines – including the Hungarian GameStar, where he worked 8 years as editor. (For our office address, email and phone number check out our impressum)

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