Sylvester Stallone is back and he’s kicking ass just like the good old days, with his new action movie Samaritan. The hard-hitting flick has been a long time coming, having been shot three years ago before the pandemic took hold, but it finally drops on the streaming service Prime Video on August 26. At just over 90 minutes, Samaritan is an ideal small screen adventure for a movie night at home.
Samaritan is a slightly different take on the slew of superhero movies flooding the market these days, with Stallone playing Joe Smith, a retired hero masquerading as a garbage man. With his superhero days as Samaritan a distant memory, Smith keeps his head down and tries to put his tragic past behind him. That is, until he crosses paths with Sam (Javon Walton) – a Samaritan superfan and a young boy falling in with the wrong crowd – who desperately needs his hero to get back in the game.
It’s far from perfect, with some questionable acting and cliché plot points letting this thriller movie down at times. But when you have Sly Stallone literally running through brick walls, it’s hard to care about the flaws.
Samaritan starts strong, with a very cool opening sequence featuring animated footage of the titular hero’s epic battle with his rival, Nemesis, 20 years prior. The combination of stylish animation and childlike wonder from Walton’s narration is an effective way to set the scene and hook the audience.
Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn’t quite have the same unique and bold approach to set it apart from the saturated superhero genre and the likes of the MCU. Instead, Samaritan becomes rather formulaic, and relies on predictable tropes such as the struggling single mother and the beleaguered old guy fixing things when really it’s him who needs fixing.
There are some pertinent thematic elements mixed in there though. We see mass social unrest on the streets of Granite City as criminals force citizens to live in fear; we see young boys like Sam lured into a life of crime as a means to survive; and we see the weight of responsibility when someone has to stand up for the little guy.
For much of the film, Samaritan plays out like a gritty drama movie rather than a superhero flick, a commendable direction to go in, but at times to its own detriment. It takes a while to actually get going with the actual superhero stuff, so if you came expecting something akin to a Marvel movie, you’ll have to wait until about two thirds of the way through before Stallone has his first proper fight scene.
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When he gets going though, Stallone’s action scenes are typically badass and a hell of a lot of fun to watch. At one point, he literally kicks a man and sends him hurtling into two other bad guys like a bowling ball, and if that isn’t worth an hour and a half of your time, I don’t know what is.
The fight scenes are well executed for the most part. Admittedly there’s a few stunts which are a little bit unconvincing, and the fight choreography isn’t exactly John Wick grade, but a nice one-take staircase fight and corridor brawl in the style of the Korean movie Oldboy more than make up for it.
Stallone brings exactly the kind of energy we have come to expect from the legendary actor. He even delivers a world-class one-liner – after killing a man with a bomb, he walks away and says “Have a blast!” But, he also hits the more dramatic beats too, with some genuinely tender moments shared with his young co-star.
A baby-faced Javon Walton is a delight to watch, and it’s good to see him in a very different role to his work on Euphoria. He brings such an endearing quality to the character of Sam, and possesses an impressive screen presence, even at such a young age.
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Pilou Asbæk brings all of the despicable qualities of his Game of Thrones character Euron Greyjoy, and presents a formidable villain to take on Stallone’s hero. Asbæk is clearly having fun with the role, and it shows in his performance.
Samaritan suffers from some pretty poor acting from the supporting cast though, with stilted performances really preventing this world from ever being truly immersive. Indeed, the whole film struggles with the typical challenges of an ambitious mid-budget movie, with dodgy CGI also affecting the overall aesthetic.
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Nevertheless, Samaritan reaches for the stars, and delivers big, bombastic action for the small screen. It may be predictable for the most part, but Samaritan does have one cool little plot twist up its sleeve. It’s hard not to have fun watching Sly Stallone force-feeding bad guys a knuckle sandwich or two, and for that reason alone, Samaritan is definitely worth a watch.
Samaritan is streaming on Prime Video from August 26, 2022. You can watch the movie with a subscription to the platform, which you can sign up for here. If you want more tough guy action, check out our list of the best Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.
A superhuman Sylvester Stallone beating up bad guys, what more could you want?