“Samaritan” (US Rated PG-13)
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Javon Walton, Pilou Asbaek, Dascha Polanco
Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video
Dwight’s Rating: out of 4
Don’t blame Marvel or DC.
Apparently, there are inherent, consistent and persistent challenges with all superhero movies, even when they are not associated with those two prolific studios and their comic-book origins.
How else can you explain the new film “Samaritan” – released last Friday on Amazon Prime Video – with legendary action star Sylvester Stallone as a hero who falls into neither of the two big camps nor any of their vast multiverses?
Yet, he faces the exact same issues that plague some of the pictures under these two umbrellas: bad decision-making and questionable motivations of all the characters, “good” or bad”, but especially the overly ambitious, bizarre and unreasonable villains.
As such, we must assume these are simply requirements for the genre.
Thirteen-year-old Sam (Javon “Wanna” Walton) suspects that his mysterious and reclusive neighbor Joe Smith (Stallone) is actually a legend hiding in plain sight. Twenty years ago, Granite City’s super-powered vigilante, Samaritan, was reported dead after a fiery warehouse battle with his rival, Nemesis. Most believe Samaritan perished in the fire but, some in the city, like Sam, have hope that he is still alive. With crime on the rise and the city on the brink of chaos, Sam makes it his mission to coax his neighbor out of hiding to save the city from ruin.
Walton (HBO’s “Euphoria”) is pretty decent as young Sam. He’s 16 now, and was about 14 when filming as 13-year-old Sam. A scene-stealer on TV, Walton is capable of carrying a film, even if this script calls for him to do an excessive amount of shouting and screaming out for help.
Stallone is 76 years old now, and seems to be in physical pain. And that’s fine for this picture, as it aligns with the backstory of the character and what he’s been through over these years. But Stallone actually always seems to be in pain these days. And not just in this film, but in anything he’s done in the last 10 years.
Despite that, he’s still believable as an action hero, albeit one whom we suspect has the worst arthritis on the planet. Some of the special effects used to de-age him for certain scenes are cheesy as heck, too. But other action sequences are satisfactory.
Satisfactory is also an appropriate word for the rest of the cast. Pilou Asbaek (HBO’s “Game of Thrones”) is your typical psycho villain, Cyrus. He does a good job of playing mean.
However, unless I missed something, it’s really not very clear why Cyrus is carrying on in this way. And he seems a little old to be a street gang leader; and what he’s ultimately trying to accomplish is murky. Unless it’s just for the sake of anarchy. And that just seems kinda lazy.
As such, “Samaritan” is lacking something; something meatier or more meaningful. Everything feels rather “typical” or “regular”. It’s at times interesting and certainly not dull, but absolutely not special. And in that regard, it’s exactly like most of the often-generic movies under the Marvel and DC banners.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.