On its surface, Samaritan could be Amazon Prime’s ground superhero drama equivalent of Marvel’s Logan or even M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable. Sylvester Stallone plays a garbage man who likes to fix items that he finds in the trash, seemingly retired from the superhero game and living life as a loner.
Through voice over narration, the audience learns that Samaritan was a well-known superhero and his twin brother, Nemesis, was an equally well-known and super-powered for vengeance and destruction. Once Nemesis fell in battle by his brother’s hand, Samaritan seemingly hung up his uniform and disappeared from the public eye.
Stallone’s retirement ends when his character finds a troubled, fatherless kid in Sam Cleary (Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton ). Stallone’s gruff anti-hero saves Sam as he gets involved with a gang of local thugs who just happen to worship Nemesis. In fact, the gang’s leader, Cyrus ( Game of Thrones’ Pilou Asbæk), wants to revive Nemesis’ persona to lead an anarchist movement.
Cyrus is psychopathic villain whose motivations are poorly defined and his decisions follow no logical motivation. He sets out to steal the hammer of Nemesis along with his mask from a police barracks, then impersonate him while unleashing EMP grenades on the city and mobilizing its looters.
It’s a real shame that the film lacks a worthy antagonist, or worthy script, as Stallone gives a solid performance as the jaded warrior who’s seen his fair share of trauma.
Julius Avery directs the film from a script by Bragi F. Schut, which does include one nicely placed twist which audiences will appreciate. Unfortunately, the rest of the script is a poorly-written, contrived affair with scenes that leave audiences shaking their heads. No one is more confounding in the film than Moisés Aria, who tries to channel a gangster version of Timothee Chalamet as he bullies young Sam and then tries to kill Stallone’s character via hit and run.
There’s a particular scene where Cyrus tells Sam the importance of learning how to whistle when he spots the police coming, and then it’s never referenced again. It’s a cringe-inducing, illogical sequel that somehow made the final cut of this low budget puzzle of a film. The audience knows what they’re getting from Stallone these days, but this is a low point even for his recent filmography. And it’s truly a shame, as the Oscar winner could’ve done something memorable in the superhero genre, given stronger material.
The movie would have been more interesting if it traded in the cheap CGI fire and bullets for a more grounded and gritty character-driven affair. Fans of Stallone will likely find enough here to warrant a viewing, but there’s little that Samaritan can offer more discerning viewers.
Letter Grade: C-