Every streaming service needs a superhero movie these days. Netflix has The Old Guard, Paramount+ recently had Secret Headquarters, and Disney+ has half their library filled with Earth’s mightiest heroes. This time, Amazon Prime Video takes its shot at the superhero genre with Samaritan. This film is about a kid named Sam (Javon Walton) living in a poverty-stricken city who believes that a local sanitation worker named Joe Smith (Sylvester Stallone) is the former superhero Samaritan. It’s easy to get bored of the saturated genre of superpowers, and films like this are a part of what contributes to that.
Samaritan is a frustratingly generic superhero outing that only offers sporadic entertainment. It’s always fascinating to see a superhero film not based on a Marvel or DC character because the world is entirely original. This movie takes us to the fictional Granite City, which used to have two twin superheroes named Samaritan and Nemesis. After the two battled in a fiery power plant, they were both presumably killed, but people believe Samaritan may still be alive. The idea of an invincible superhero living in hiding as a sanitation worker is excellent, but the movie never does much we haven’t seen before.
The novelty of this idea comes from how it has its central characters, including the superhero, living in poverty and crime. It’s a superb idea to depict this in a superhero film, but the writing holds the movie back. The premise of a kid who can’t stand up for himself and requires the assistance of a legendary hero who has fallen upon hard times has been done to death. The familiarity of this premise was even made fun of earlier this summer in Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank. This conventional story is told in a way that never feels as interesting as it could be.
The story beats are predictable throughout, offering everything we would expect to see from a film with this premise. Samaritan offers one good twist, but beyond that, most of it is reheated leftovers with cliché writing and a story with little new to offer. The performances in this movie can also be surprisingly weak, given that the actors have all given much better performances in their other work. However, not even Stallone has enough charisma to save this film, and the rest of the performances are typically over-the-top villainy.
However, this movie is not without its entertainment value. The 80s action movie lover in me always loves watching Stallone rip people apart. This film knows how to cater to Sly’s fans, as it offers surprisingly brutal PG-13 violence and the occasional action one-liner that will have you chuckling about a time when heroes had to say something cool when they killed bad guys. Those who loved movies like Cobra, First Blood, and even The Expendables will enjoy the film’s final act, where a mid-70s Stallone absolutely tears through bad guys.
The issue with Samaritan always stays with the writing. The villain, Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), is exceptionally weak and forgettable, with bland, disposable motivations. He even goes on a few evil monologues from time to time. Furthermore, when you have a hero as strong and bulletproof as Stallone’s character, he can easily kill all of the villains, so the action scenes don’t have you at the edge of your seat as much as they could. It doesn’t feel like this movie introduced an iconic new superhero with a cool, unique design because Samaritan’s suit is barely used in the film. Instead, it just looks like an aging Rambo kicking ass again.
There’s a good amount of popcorn entertainment to get from Samaritan. Stallone has been fun to watch onscreen since the 70s, and with his sixth consecutive decade as a leading man, he brings a lot of entertainment to this movie. However, it isn’t enough to save the film around him, which features subpar performances, generic writing, and fake-looking CGI fire. The movie can sometimes get boring, but it’s not a bad choice if you’ve been missing the violence of an aging action hero. Samaritan could have had Schwarzenegger, Willis, Neeson, or even Van Damme, and we would have enjoyed it all the same — occasionally, but not enough to be worthwhile.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 5 equates to “Mediocre.” This score means that the positives and negatives wind up negating each other, making it a wash.
Disclosure: Critic received a press screener for ComingSoon’s Samaritan review.