Julius Avery's Samaritan is explicit in its intentions. The Granite City is literally defined through shots of garbage, accentuating that thieves and criminals are running amok. Joe (Sylvester Stallone) picks up trash for a living, meaning he would soon clean the filth known as lawbreakers. The bad guys in Samaritan cause chaos through blackouts (they literally spread darkness). And a superhero's body overheats when he gets hurt, so he cools down himself with water. Towards the end, after revealing a twist related to mistaken identity, the movie teaches that everybody is both good and evil and that it depends on the person whose side he/she chooses. In other words, there is no room for subtlety in Samaritan. Everything is as visible as Stallone's biceps.
Through a comic book-type animation during the opening credits, we are informed about two superheroes-cum-brothers - Nemesis and Samaritan. After the death of their parents, the former became a villain, and the latter turned into a savior. Both of them died during a showdown at a power plant, but some believe Samaritan survived. One of those believers is a small kid called Sam (Javon "Wanna" Walton). He adores Samaritan, so much so that he had mistaken a strong janitor and a mailman who outran a dog to be his favorite superhero. The kid really wants to hold on to the idea that his idol is alive. One day, Joe rescues Sam from bullies and bends a knife. Sam astonishingly looks at Joe because only a superhuman can bend a knife with his bare hands. Viola! Joe must be Samaritan! Of course, Joe rubbishes this theory, but all doubts are laid to rest when Sam sees him walking after being hit by a car.
Joe shows no interest in reemerging as a hero. He is tired and still haunted by the loss of his brother (he often gets nightmares of that fateful incident). On the other end of the spectrum is Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), an admirer of Nemesis. He wants to continue what Nemesis started: To plunge the city into the depths of disorder and destruction. Oh yes, Granite City is divided based on fandom. Some worship Samaritan, while some support Nemesis. The fact that the superheroes themselves have either died or retired while their fans continue to talk about them shows how the people have the power to prevent their icons from fading into oblivion. Even though Joe prefers to live in his secluded cave, he stays fresh in the minds of the people he inspired and whose families he saved.
Joe is old and rugged, and he can still kick your ass. But he abstains from using his powers. At one point, he tells Sam that he won't wreck his knees for the sake of his entertainment. He also says, "Why would you wanna get into a fight with some stranger who has nothing to do with your life, who could take your life?" Joe is a very zen superhero who breaks objects and meditates by slowly fixing them. He acknowledges his old age by stating that there was a time he could jump over ten cars, but now he can only jump over nine of them. After breaking through multiple walls, he pauses to catch his breath. This godlike figure is a little out of practice, and Stallone adeptly displays the character's strengths and weaknesses. His face is both weary and full of wisdom. It's almost impossible to imagine someone else in this role.
Samaritan unfolds in a neighborhood of Granite City, giving the writer Bragi F. Schut the license to create co-incidences. Characters often bump into each other. For instance, Reza (Moisés Arias), one of the bad guys, comes across Sam and later Joe by simply navigating the streets. In one scene, Cyrus finds Sam walking on the road just when he needs him. The movie is aware of its plot conveniences, as is evident from the scene where Sam informs a "serious journalist" about Joe being Samaritan. Sam mentions, "He lives in the apartment building across from me," and the journalist remarks, "That's convenient." Asbæk's Cyrus, though, fails to make you quiver. Superhuman or not, you never believe that someone like Asbæk could defeat a man like Stallone. The latter's sturdy, muscular physique assures you that no one in the film is capable enough to overpower this person. Cyrus is also not brainy enough to manipulate Joe. You can blame the movie for that, as it merely wants to tell a fairly simple and straightforward story.
Samaritan, ultimately, is an inoffensive piece of media that passes the time without overstaying its welcome. When it ends, you find yourself thinking, "Eh, it was okay." Its ambitions are low and stakes even lower, as you never feel the good guys are in real trouble. There are no surprises, and the final twist is predictable. But stay for Stallone and watch him carry the film on his beefy shoulders. He is a feast for the eyes.
Final Score – [6/10]
Reviewed by - Vikas Yadav
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