Honestly, I am baffled it has taken this long for Sylvester Stallone to make his outing into the superhero subgenre. Aside from minor roles in James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 and The Suicide Squad, Stallone has been a mere inevitability for the vast catalog of superhero projects. Prime Video’s Samaritan finally delivers a story of idolatry, questioning what lies beyond the mask the people tend to worship. Sadly, the execution of the interesting concept leaves too much to be desired and far too little to be remembered.
[Warning: Spoilers from Prime Video’s Samaritan are below]
Samaritan‘s secret weapon
Samaritan opens with a scene that shockingly feels like The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in the best way. Both of these movies, for all of their flaws (and there are plenty), capture the child’s perspective and innocence incredibly well. But in the world of a story like this, that feeling is a beating light of hope that things can be better.
Samaritan is set in the fictional Granite City, and ever since the hero went missing all those years ago, things have just gone downhill. There’s an empty hero-shaped hole in this town, and that emptiness is felt everywhere. Homelessness has gone up and jobs have gone down. But the way this kid is clawing his way to something better, and letting his hope drive him, feels misplaced in this world filled with despair.
Samaritan and its unique role in the genre
That’s really where Samaritan shines – its use of the mere idea of what heroes are. Samaritan isn’t about the hero who used to be, but about what that hero meant to the citizens of the town. In the modern day, where the MCU and other projects are filled with “heroes” on every corner, heroes have lost their luster.
There’s nothing special about them. Every character lives in a town where another hero lives right around the corner. We’ve strayed far from a time when Richard Donner and Christopher Reeve made people believe a man could fly, and Samaritan feels like it fills a similar space.
By putting the world at the forefront, we feel the weight of the character much more. We feel his importance and we feel how he affects those around him. The approach this movie took was wonderful, and it was a serious breath of fresh air in a frankly oversaturated market of superhero films that far too often fail to offer something new.
Characters (Samaritan‘s biggest shortcoming)
In the spotlight for the first time is Euphoria and Umbrella Academy season 3’s Javon “Wanna” Walton. I can’t imagine playing off of Sylvester Stallone being easy for a young actor, and I think that proves true here. Stallone is an incredibly “in his ways” type of actor. You hire Stallone for Stallone, and he’s going to Stallone every time. But as a young actor, having to meet whatever energy (or lack of energy) he brings to every line cannot be an easy feat.
The weakest part of the film I think is the relationship that Walton’s character, Sam, has with his mother. Played by Dascha Polanco, Tiffany is not given much of anything to do. It got to the point where I found myself asking what her role even was in the story. The answer is that she doesn’t really have one. She feels like an addition that the movie felt was necessary, but they never found a real reason for her to be around. The same can be said for the criminally underutilized Martin Starr, who is a lot of fun in the few passing moments he is given.
As I said, Stallone is going to Stallone, but there is an interesting layer of his performance that I really appreciated seeing. He sits pretty comfortably in his role as an aged out-of-his-time mentor that he’s played masterfully once before in Ryan Coogler’s Creed. But the movie is all about challenging that role and questioning his place in this world. The things they do with his character, named Joe Smith, are some of the most interesting and exciting of the whole movie.
Julius Avery’s superhero flick releases this Friday, August 26, on Prime Video. It has its issues, but it’s a good time with some interesting ideas to shake up the typical superhero formula. If you’ve got a free 90 minutes this weekend and you’re looking for something to watch, this would definitely be worth a watch.
My Samaritan film review rating:
Are you going to check out Prime Video’s Samaritan this weekend? Let us know in the comments or on social media! And if you haven’t already, check out my latest film review on Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero!