In super hero fantasy movie, Samaritan, it has been 25 years since the citizens of Granite City last saw their champion, the super-powered vigilante known as Samaritan, take to the streets. Following a battle with the villainous, Nemesis, Samaritan is believed to have passed away, robbing the city of its hero.
But not everyone believes Samaritan is gone – in fact, 13-year-old boy, Sam Cleary, is convinced the hero has simply retired, and is now living as Joe Smith – a mild-mannered refuse collector. And Sam’s suspicions appear to be confirmed when he runs into a spot of trouble with a local gang, and Joe steps in to rescue him.
Yet despite confirmation that he is a lot stronger than the average Joe, this quiet and unassuming garbage man seems reluctant to return to his super days. That is, until the city comes under threat from a new villain, claiming to be Nemesis, and Joe finds himself having to make a choice.
Will Joe step back into the spotlight to reveal his true identity? Or are his costume-wearing days firmly a thing of the past?
Directed by Julius Avery, Samaritan stars Sylvester Stallone, Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton, Martin Starr and Pilou Asbæk. The movie is brand-new to Amazon Prime Video from today, and lands on the streaming service having skipped cinemas.
The release of Samaritan has been a long time coming, as the film suffered from production delays and rescheduling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yep, we’re in the latter part of summer 2022, but there are still a few movies that are only now seeing the light of day, because of the events of the last couple of years.
So, the big question is: Was it worth the wait for Samaritan? Is this a top-notch super hero picture and a great Stallone film, or is this just another comic book movie to add to the pile?
I’d say, Sarmatian falls somewhere in between. Samaritan is fairly decent, with a good turn from Stallone, but at times it feels very much like a super hero movie from the past – the sort of thing being churned out at the beginning of the ‘00s.
Those who enjoyed this particular era of super hero flicks will feel comfortable walking a familiar path. However, audiences who are now used to the fun and creativity that can be had with the MCU, or who enjoy shows such The Boys or The Umbrella Academy, will find Samaritan to be rather underwhelming.
The film’s biggest issue is that it takes a little too long to get going. Like an old school origin movie, Samaritan suffers from too much build-up during the first half of the movie, robbing the film of some much-needed action when it counts.
Sure, it is interesting to see Stallone playing a reluctant, dishevelled and disinterested super being, who has to be coaxed back into action, but it’s 2022 and audiences have spent decades with super heroes and comic book movies, so no film should still be spending so much time establishing a character. A great deal of the set-up of this film, and of Stallone’s character, should have been trimmed down, to make a leaner, more efficient tale.
Because Samaritan fumbles things here, the movie really struggles to gain momentum from the get-go. This doesn’t mean any of this material is particularly bad, but it does mean the film is slow, and often plodding when it should be engaging with its audience, and this is problematic.
Thankfully the pace picks up considerably as the film heads toward the climax and the final 30 minutes benefit from increased activity. The narrative shackles that hold the film back are unlocked, and Samaritan really finds its sweet spot.
Of course, it is far too late; but better late than never. It is also here that Stallone is able to let rip, and the film truly comes alive.
During the climax there are some enjoyable scenes of spectacle, things become far more exciting and involving, and Stallone is given the opportunity to flex his muscles. And as noted above, he really is the shining light in this film.
Irrespective of the pacing issues, and storytelling shortcomings, Stallone is never less than likeable and believable. It is clear that he is invested in his role as Joe and he gives it his all, despite the middling material he is given to work with.
As for the rest of the film, the supporting actors are fine, and the grim setting and dour aesthetic add something to the story, but ultimately this is very much a C-grade kind of action film. It is perfectly watchable for a Saturday night in with a couple of beers, so don’t be put off, but it lacks the right spark to take things into the big leagues.
This film is not Superman: The Movie (1978), Iron Man (2008), or Avengers: Infinity War (2018). What we have here is something along the lines of The Shadow (1994) or Mystery Men (1999) – pictures which have decent moments and have (eventually) found a loyal, cult following in the fullness of time.
I’m very doubtful we will see any kind of continuation of the Samaritan story – not with Stallone’s on-screen involvement anyway – although I wouldn’t rule out any low(er) budget sequels, with a replacement actor taking the lead. But for now, this feels like a ‘one and done’ kind of thing, so take it for what it is.