Title: Samaritan (Prime Video – 2022)
Writer: Julius Avery
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Javon “Wanna” Walton, Pilou Asbæk, Dascha Polanco
Yes, this is a good idea: Let’s make another one of those things where we’re doing the superhero genre, but with a twist. You know, it worked for The Boys, The Umbrella Academy and a couple others. I’m sure it will work if Sylvester Stallone plays the washed-up superpowered street-level hero who’s reluctantly meeting out justice to the city’s criminal elements. Right?
Samaritan is a new-ish take on the superhero genre, and it almost looks good on paper. We’re in the fictional “City” (honestly, I can’t be bothered to remember its name if they even mentioned it), where crime and poverty are rampant. You see, some 25 years ago, the City was protected by the superhero Samaritan, who fought his evil nemesis and brother called… Nemesis (sigh…). But after they were seemingly both killed in a huge showdown, which ended in an explosion, the City has fallen on hard times, with said crime, poverty and homelessness.
Here we meet 13-year-old Sam (played by Javon “Wanna” Walton), who helps his poor single mother by lending her 5 dollars now and then. Sam is obsessed with Samaritan (never mind that Samaritan died 12 years before the kid was born). He knows it. He just knows it: Samaritan is really alive. He’s just in hiding, you see. And it’s his neighbor Joe (played by Sylvester Stallone)! Last week it was the school janitor. And the week before, it was the mailman. But now it’s Joe!
But this week, he really might be on to something. He begins to spy on old man Joe living across his street and who works in trash disposal. There are signs that he might be a superhero: he’s very strong, he has lots of scars, and when some other kids beat up Sam, Joe comes to the rescue. But when his mother’s poverty gets Sam mixed up in a criminal gang to earn some cash, Joe intervenes and takes him under his wing. And yes, he is a superhero. Or superpowered, at least. Super strength and ice cream-fueled healing abilities.
But the City is tearing itself apart through violence disguised as social justice. The gang leader Cyrus (played by Pilou Asbæk, who leaves teeth marks on all the scenery!) is obsessed with the villain Nemesis (again: sigh…) He goes on to steal military hardware, Nemesis’ supernatural hammer, mask and so on to rile up the poor and downtrodden. There are some meager attempts at social commentary here and there, but it is quickly drowned out by uneven pacing and unintentionally funny caricatures and undeveloped characters. The film doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be: Serious crime drama? Social commentary? Superhero flick? Kids film?
As you might have gathered from my review so far, I wasn’t very impressed by Samaritan. It is very 90s, has a meager budget that most likely all went to get Stallone on board and has a very “straight to video” feel to it. Oh, and it also has Pilou Asbæk saying cringeworthy lines like, “It’s here! I can feel its power! With this, I can finish what Nemesis started.”
One would think that in a film like this, the chemistry between the two leads, Joe and Sam, would be essential. And to be fair, Sylvester Stallone shows a degree of range in his acting here, playing the aging, cynical and beaten-up ex-superhero. He’s not “phoning it in” by any means. But sadly, the same can not be said about Javon “Wanna” Walton’s portrayal of Sam. Showing little to no charm, the 13-year-old kid is more irritating than anything else, doing one unbelievably stupid thing after another. The film is also marred by very basic dialogue throughout and watching this, I often found my eyes drifting towards my mobile phone to check my messages more than I care to admit.
Still, it has one or two decent action scenes, especially towards the end. But I don’t think it will be enough to save Samaritan from the scrap heap of failed and forgotten superhero movies.
Samaritan is not a good film. If you’re a fan of Stallone and watch everything he’s in or you’re feeling particularly starved of superhero content (how??), this might be worth a watch. But fair warning, Samaritan is more like what you get if you order your superheroes from Wish.com.