Samaritan (2022) Review

Julius Avery’s long-delayed follow-up to his impressive WWII zombie thriller, Overlord (2018) is finally here on Prime Video. The idea of having the older and gruff-looking Sylvester Stallone as the title character in Samaritan is among the reasons that caught my attention in the first place. Of course, this is not the first time he appears in such genre movies that are either based on graphic novels (2013’s Bullet to the Head) or comic books (1995’s Judge Dredd, 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and last year’s The Suicide Squad).

In Samaritan, which is based on the Mythos Comics graphic novels of the same name, Stallone plays Joe. He lives alone in a dingy apartment and earns his living as a garbage collector. A young boy, Sam Cleary (Javon “Wanna” Walton), who lives across the street with his mother (Dascha Polanco), is a huge fan of the long-gone famed superhero, Samaritan. We learn that twenty-five years ago, Samaritan fought against Nemesis and ended up dead in a warehouse fire and leave behind a mighty sledgehammer.

Unlike others, Sam believes that Samaritan is still alive and his theory is confirmed when Joe turns out to be the person after all. This is especially true after Joe saves him by single-handedly taking down a bunch of local gang members using his brute strength.

Sylvester Stallone and Pilou Asbæk in "Samaritan" (2022)

Meanwhile, sociopathic gang leader Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), who worshipped Nemesis, is looking to take over his mantle. With the help of his gang members, he breaks into the evidence room in the police department to steal Nemesis’ sledgehammer and mask.

Stallone delivers a familiar grizzled turn as Joe/Samaritan that we have seen him before in the Creed and Rambo movies. He still looks good and physically fit for a man who already reached mid-70 years of age. But it’s a pity his potential role is largely hampered by Bragi F. Schut’s (2019’s Escape Room) hollow script. The story spends more time on the unlikely friendship between Joe and Sam, where I was hoping their onscreen chemistry would give the movie a strong emotional or dramatic weight. Too bad that didn’t happen since the pacing stalls more than often with tiresome exposition-heavy scenarios.

The stakes, in the meantime, are low and more grounded if compared with the ones seen in the Marvel or DC movies. But even so, I’m fine by them as long as the action is thrilling enough to keep me hooked. And given Avery’s flair for energetic action set pieces in Overlord, I was expecting more of the same here. Well, all we have here is mostly uninspired action sequences involving fistfights. It wasn’t until the final 30 minutes or so that Avery finally steps up the game as Joe goes full-on Rambo mode to face Cyrus and his heavily-armed gang members.

Sylvester Stallone and Dascha Polanco in "Samaritan" (2022)

The action may have been pale in comparison to what Avery did better in his previous movie. But frankly, this is the only time that I feel invested with the otherwise lacklustre movie. If that’s not enough, it even comes with an unexpected revelation that I did not see it coming. Although it doesn’t help much to compensate for most of the shortcomings, at least Avery and screenwriter Schut did inject a little surprise here.

If only the story delves deeper into the mythology rather than just restricting it to a generic tale of redemption, we might have gotten a potentially better movie instead. As with movies that are based on graphic novels or comic books these days, you might be expecting a post-credits stinger but you can just close the window since Samaritan looks like a one-off movie.

Samaritan is currently streaming on Prime Video.

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