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Review: Samaritan (2022)

Samaritan (2022)

Directed by: Julius Avery

Premise: A boy (Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton) believes that the neighborhood trash collector (Sylvester Stallone) is actually a superhero long believed to be dead. At the same time, a local crime lord takes on the identity of a former supervillain and plots a revolution.

What Works: Samaritan brings a refreshingly intimate scale to the superhero genre. A lot of these movies feature large, digitally created action scenes in which the fate of the world is at stake. Samaritan mostly confines itself to a neighborhood. Samaritan was the name of a local superhero who fought his villainous brother Nemesis; both were rumored to have died decades ago and have become urban legends. Samaritan is very self-contained. It is about this neighborhood and the people who live within it. These superheroes have become symbols of hope and empowerment and local identity. This brings something a little different to the superhero genre. In keeping with the local scale, Samaritan has a grounded visual style. Much of the film appears to be done practically and the digital effects are mostly discrete. One exception is the flashback sequence to Samaritan and Nemesis’ legendary battle which has the slick look of a comic book. It’s an appropriate stylistic departure from the rest of the movie which has a gritty look. The heart of Samaritan is the relationship between the retired superhero played by Sylvester Stallone and the local boy played by Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton. The boy is looking for a hero while Stallone’s character is reluctant to fill that role. It’s a scenario we’ve seen before but Stallone and Walton have a likable rapport.

What Doesn’t: Samaritan flirts with big ideas but it doesn’t follow them through. It is admirable how the filmmakers try to get away from the binary notions of good and evil that typically characterize superhero films but Samaritan doesn’t tie that idea to anything in the story. Walton’s character isn’t at risk of getting with the wrong crowd nor does he face any moral choices. Borrowing from The Dark Knight Rises, this film hints at class politics. The crime lord and other people living in this impoverished neighborhood believe Nemesis was actually an antihero who represented their community. That is an interesting idea but the film doesn’t do anything with it. The plot to destroy the city’s power grid and unleash riots on the wealthier parts of town has a definite political implication but Samaritan comes across confused about its politics.

DVD extras: On Amazon Prime Video.

Bottom Line: Samaritan attempts to bring a fresh approach to the superhero story and it partly succeeds. The filmmakers fail to do anything really innovative or subversive but Samaritan works as a gritty, street level superhero adventure.

Episode: #916 (September 4, 2022)