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Samaritan

***
2020

‘…For fans, the action and one-liners will be enough, but Samaritan gains depth from our on-going interest in Stallone as a star, and packs the requisite star action to get pass marks…’

‘I just checked out that dumpster, there’s not much in it,’ noted Sylvester Stallone in much delayed super-hero movie Samaritan, yet another film from 2020 eventually finding an audience in 2022. Like many of this year’s recent releases (Top Gun: Maverick, Death on the Nile, The Man from Toronto) Samaritan was originally due back in 2020, but the pandemic had other ideas, and so Stallone’s film now drops directly onto the Amazon Prime streaming service rather than cinemas currently starved of the popular content they need. Developed by Stallone’s Balboa production company, it’s a proper cinema release tailor-made for the star, and despite some critical raspberries, it’s anything but rubbish.

The main character is a kid, Sam Clearly, played by The Umbrella Academy’s Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton. He’s growing up in the hardscrabble Granite City, where crime is everywhere and Sam’s poor mother (Dascha Polanko) struggles to make rent for her family. Crime is a temptation, although the bullying Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk) doesn’t offer much choice. Sam’s best hope is the mysterious Joe Smith (Stallone) who lives in a nearby apartment. Could old Joe turn out to be the near mythic figure of the Samaritan, who once fought off the deadly threat Nemesis? Smith isn’t talking, but events conspire to reveal his true identity…

In terms of non-franchise films, Samaritan is Stallone’s first leading role in a decade, adapted from a script that was then reworked as a graphic novel. It’s largely focused on the growing relationship between the boy and Stallone, which is familiar but has a welcome small-scale. With Stallone turning out to have the super-powers the boy suspects, his absurd indestructability as a super-hero is fairly much in line with the gung-ho way that Rambo turned out. Director Julius Avery does manage to give the film a uniquely grimy, poverty-row look, with rain-soaked streets and abandoned buildings giving with to a large-scale and suitably fiery finale.

Samaritans’ crowd-pleasing curtain-call for Stallone, who has been making action movies for nearly 50 years now, may be diminished by missing out on big screen exposure and being reduced to casual home viewing, but it’s far better than the trailer suggests, and that’s predictably because of Stallone’s still-got-it performance. ‘I’m a troglodyte’ he announces after pouring fruit juice into his cornflakes; there’s always been something endearingly daft about the kind of touches that Stallone brings to the tone of a film, and Samaritan has just that daffy quality. Fudged, abstract politics reflect that Samaritan was filmed during the Trump presidency, but the film’s reluctant hero somehow catches a cultural wave as a kind of Shane for the Dark Brandon era. For fans, the action and one-liners will be enough, but Samaritan gains depth from our on-going interest in Stallone as a star, and packs the requisite star action to get pass marks.

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    • And that’s the conundrum. Proper cinema films but not in cinemas when we need them. The whole eco-system will come crashing down if it’s Tilda Swinton in cinemas and Sylvester Stallone at home.

      • System looks in dire jeopardy already I’m afraid. But if anyone’s going to save the day it’s Hollywood which has been on the verge of disaster too many times to mentiion.

  1. I have put this on the watch list, after seeing youtube already paraphrasing this as an anti-woke joke, it sounded up my ally. Also that kid from Umbrella acadamy was a great addition to the cast. Thank you for giving me confidence in going to watch this.

    • It’s no masterpiece, but it is a proper cinema film and a late work by a huge star that will please fans. Watch with an open mind and it warms up nicely.

  2. Just watched this movie and am underwhelmed sadly, as I was thinking it would be fab. Loved the scene setting and photography, the pacing was fine, nice slow build to the feisty stuff which was well done. Not too much CGI. But, hokey script, acting either wooden or OTT depending on scene, generic villains, and cheap plot really. Stallone has done better.

  3. Hurray!!!!!!
    the cinemas are dying, the cinemas are dying! Man, you know how to make my day.

    I do have to ask though, what in the world is a “Shane for the Dark Brandon era”? I could not make heads or tails of that.

  4. Brilliantly said; film was sublime, went perfect with pizza, antipasto salad, Chianti, and a cannoli… per recent Forbes article, Cineworld (owns Regal chain) is filing for US bankruptcy. Between being shut down for nearly 2 years and 1/3 less movies released theatrically…reasons given. Other factors aren’t being discussed, like the lure of the 1 on 1 connection to Internet and patience required to watch a 2 hour film without checking cell phone. We’re giving up the goosebumps we get experiencing the communal ‘awe’ of a shared experience. Is this evolution or something else? Are we losing our tactile sense? If so what goes next?
    Then there’s economics; I watched Samaritan and bought take out for the price I’d pay for a full price ticket, a box of chocolates, and a soda (which I dislike). There are plenty of theatre release duds also. If I’d paid to see Orphan in a theatre, I’d be annoyed. For a time in US, you could get dinner and movie at the movie. It was bloody awful, distracting, frustrating…not to mention need for bathroom breaks after drinking a draft, couldn’t hit pause. I do miss the pageantry somewhat. Movies are still a big deal, are 100+ years old, still serve as escape, but compete now with home big screens and sound systems, plush chairs, privacy preferences, cost, no need for babysitter, germ phobias…restaurants and bars having attendance issues too. And a movie isn’t a live performance. I don’t have a solution except to banish the Internet? RE Stallone, fabulous premise, reluctant loner, unbreakable but compromised, aging hero…a touch of 70s Bronson, evil twin, 80s Eastwood, 90s Enforcer, winsome kid as copilot and narrator..…backstory, drama and humor, and was that Euron Greyjoy? Action shots from a man closer to 80 than 70…compelling story….wonderfulness !

    • …is the correct answer on all counts! This really was needed in cinemas right now, we’re short of product and a big star like Stallone would have done nicely to put bums on seats. And yes, that’s a GOT bad guy, so let’s not pretend that this is just for the oldies. ‘Have a blast’ says Stallone, and he’s now the last man standing in terms of action movies. It’s criminal that stuff like this and Prey are not in cinemas; if streaming destroys cinema, it’ll destroy itself in the process.

      And yes, Cineworld/Regal have debt they want to dump; isn’t forgiving loans a big deal right now? Unfortunately, if studios cut their cloth and aim for inexpensive streaming rather than cinema releases, they’re wrecking their own eco-system. At least you’re investing your saved ticket price wisely, but the future of our wonderful experiences in the dark is at stake, and all our hero’s seem to be invested with short-term survival. We need a hero, and it’s a same that the worthy Samaritan, or should that be Nemesis, is otherwise engaged…glad to hear you had a blast, and hopefully gets me off the naughty step, although I still feel Orphan 2 was worth a three star review…

    • Papa Smurf; Dirty Santa. But this is better than I’d expected. Stallone can still carry a role and the fallen icon theme is ideal for him.

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