Sly Stallone Makes ‘Samaritan’ At Least Somewhat Watchable

So, over the last month, my process for making an internal list of pros and cons on a new movie has changed somewhat dramatically. Here are some pros about the new Sylvester Stallone movie, Samaritan, that, to be honest, I hadn’t all that much considered before:

1. It’s a movie. And since Bullet Train came out at the beginning of August, there really hasn’t been all that many of them. Which is weird because it sure seems like people enjoyed watching movies this summer.

2. The company that owns Samaritan didn’t just delete the movie off the server for a tax break. Again, in my life I had never really considered this before. But now this seems to be an actual thing that happens, and it didn’t happen to Samaritan, at least at the time I’m writing this. So, there’s a huge pro about Samaritan: if you want, you’ll be able to see it. This is not something we can say about every movie anymore.

Now, of course, there are some cons. One of them being Samaritan isn’t a particularly great movie. Or, really, even that good. Though I found myself enjoying it at times, but that could be due to the whole, “at least it wasn’t deleted,” aspect. Then again, I’ve seen movies that, in retrospect, they should have just deleted. So maybe that’s not it. But what somewhat saves Samaritan is Stallone – who also produced the movie and I’m sure had a lot of say in its direction*, even though that is credited to Julius Avery – who seems to be having a nice time and is actually pretty invested. (For anyone who is worried, this is not one of those movies where a big movie star is billed, yet has maybe three scenes and obviously only filmed for, at tops, two days. Stallone is very much the star of the movie.)

*Yes, anyone who has ever followed Stallone’s career know that he has a tendency to become the director of the movies he’s in, even if he’s not technically the director. But, seriously, reading through the Wikipedia entries of almost every Stallone production between 1980 and 2000, it’s comically similar in its wording of basically, “Sly and the director didn’t see eye to eye on the production and reports are that Stallone wound up directing it himself.” Look, Sly has a vision for his movies.

Samaritan starts out with one of those animated exposition sequences that just bombs the viewer in backstory and lore. Nine times out of ten this is a bad sign. We learn about a mythic battle between Samaritan and his arch-foe on top of a burning building. After, Samaritan was never seen again, though there are numerous websites and YouTube channels devoted to the idea Samaritan still lives, somewhere. (Tough, this seems like the least surprising aspect of this movie. I bet if I searched hard enough I could find a website that claims Peter Lawford is still alive somewhere and will become our next president.)

Many years later, a kid named Sam (Javon Walton) is having trouble with some bullies and a garbageman named Joe comes to his rescue. When Joe grabs a bully’s knife by the blade and destroys it with his bare hand, Sam, who is obsessed with Samaritan, thinks he’s found his long-lost hero. When Sam witnesses Joe get hit by a speeding car and break multiple bones in his body, yet survive and recovers quickly enough to walk away, he knows he’s found Samaritan.

The problem is, those bullies are part of a bigger crime organization run by some sort of warlord named Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk, who played Euron Greyjoy) who has a supernatural axe that used to belong to Samaritan’s arch enemy, but no actual powers himself. This leads to a showdown with poor Joe who just wants to be left alone and doesn’t really like being around other people (it’s here I found myself sympathizing with Joe), let alone be any kind of hero that has to save the city from a crime family. This all leads to somewhat of a twist a lot of people will see coming a mile away, even though I didn’t because I didn’t really even consider a movie like Samaritan would have any kind of surprise at the end. So I kind of found the whole ending somewhat nifty.

But, again, the reason this might be worth your time on a night you don’t have anything else to do anyway – this was basically my experience – is because of Stallone. Stallone seems to be having a great time and we even get rewarded at the end with Stallone full-on yelling his dialogue in a way only Stallone can do. Even though movie doesn’t always make total sense, at least in what it’s trying to say about good and evil, if it’s really trying to say much at all – I’ve just decided to think it’s not.

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