Samaritan Review

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These days, it’s hard to make a superhero movie that feels original. They’re everywhere — and with “superhero fatigue” always threatening to set in among audiences, it takes something special to make them seem fresh again. Samaritan certainly knows this, based on the 2014 graphic novel from Mythos Comics, a heavily-saturated semi-animated prologue sets up the story in defiantly comic-book terms. It’s an old-fashioned tale of good versus evil — that much is clear — but one can’t help but feel they’ve heard it before.

The preamble tells of a battle fought 25 years ago between two superpowered brothers turned sworn enemies who — as legend has it — killed each other in the process. But whispers persist that one of them, the kind-hearted Samaritan (Sylvester Stallone), is still alive, whispers spread by conspiracy theorist-type Albert Casier (Martin Starr, now on his fifth superhero movie), and swallowed whole by starry-eyed Sam (Euphoria’s Javon Walton).

It’s through Sam’s eyes that we see the story: a plucky, precocious kid who believes in superheroes when everyone else has given up hope; crime is soaring and people are starving. Unfortunately for him he falls in with the wrong crowd, some local thugs you know are bad guys because they have tattoos and alternative hairstyles. At their helm is mob boss Cyrus, played by villain specialist Pilou Asbæk, who wants Nemesis’s magic glowing hammer for himself.

If all this sounds fairly on-the-nose (for reference: Samaritan = goodie, Nemesis = baddie), well… yeah. Despite pre-release marketing promising a “darker” take on the genre, this is a superhero film that leans into cheese pretty hard — making it feel like something from the ’90s; like an era before screen superheroes grew up and filmmakers started taking them and their adult audiences seriously; like a relic from the pre-Feige, pre-Nolan, pre-Snyder age.

There are some nice performances here that save it from being a complete write-off: Stallone is good value as the gruff, growling old hero, living like a “troglodyte” who crushes junk with his bare hands before reluctantly coming out of retirement. Walton’s solid too, giving his character the same wide-eyed wish-fulfilment that made Shazam so endearing — a young hero for young heroes. But overall it feels slightly out of time, like an attempt to ride the superhero wave without really understanding what makes those waves work. Good Samaritan? Not quite.

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