SAMARITAN: 2 ½ STARS. “the kind of superhero flick you’d find at Blockbuster”
There was a time when, to be a hero, all Sylvester Stallone had to do was go a few rounds with Ivan Drago.
How times have changed.
In “Samaritan,” Stallone is a hero of the super variety. He has exceptional strength, is able to jump through walls, bound over lakes of fire and absorb high octane gun fire.
He even has a catchphrase, “Have a blast,” but Marvel, this ain’t.
“Samaritan” is the kind of off-brand superhero flick that used to decorate the shelves at Blockbuster. These days, you’ll find it streaming on Amazon Prime.
Set in Granite City, the movie takes place twenty-five years after the city’s protector, Samaritan, disappeared in the wake of the fight with his enemy Nemesis, opening the door for baddies like Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), who could pass for “Lost Boys” era Kiefer Sutherland, and his gang of ultraviolent goons to take over.
Imagine “The Warriors” but with masked heroes and supervillains.
Unemployment and poverty are on the rise. “It’s only a matter of time until the city implodes,” screams one newscast.
Granite City is also home to teenager Sam (Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton), described by his single mom (Dascha Polanco) as “good, but a little lost.” Sam is obsessed with the story of Samaritan, and is convinced his neighbor, a garbage man named Joe Smith (Stallone), is the superhero in hiding.
Joe denies any connection to the missing crime fighter. “Samaritan is dead,” he grunts. “I just pick up garbage.” But when Sam witnesses Joe survive almost getting snapped in half by a brutal car attack, he is more convinced than ever that his neighbour has special powers.
Over time a father-son bond develops between them and when Cyrus calls for a violent revolution—actually just rioting and looting—Sam pleads with Joe, “You’re the only one who can help.”
Question is, will Joe be able to clean the streets of crime or just pick up trash?
“Samaritan” has a distinct early 90s vibe. There is an undeniable nostalgic rush to the movie’s low-tech effects, villains who cackle with glee at every evil deed and city on the edge vibe. It’s the stuff of George H. W. Bush era direct to video flicks and put me in the mind of the days when I watched movies, rented for a day or two, on rickety old videotapes.
That being aid, “Samaritan” is set-your-expectations-low enjoyable. It is a hoot to hear Stallone explain the biometrics of his superhero body, and even as a lumbering superhero who eats his morning cereal with apple juice, and is afraid to jump off a building out of concern for his knees, the man formerly known as Rocky is a fun watch.