Samaritan (2022) Review!!

Synopsis – A young boy learns that a superhero who was thought to have gone missing after an epic battle twenty years ago may in fact still be around.

My Take – With Marvel Studios continuing to dominate the superhero market for the past 14 years or so, every other studio is still trying to play catch up by constantly releasing films and series about super-powered people. And with the threat of a fatigue ever looming among audiences, it takes a lot to make something feel fresh.

This latest attempt at a success story is this Amazon Prime Release, starring Hollywood legend Sylvester Stallone that is directed by Julius Avery (Overlord) and written by Bragi F. Schut, who adapts from the Mythos Comics graphic novels he co-wrote with Marc Olivent, and Renzo Podesta.

Promising yet another gritty and dark take on the genre, the film offers bigger and more tailored role for Stallone in comparison to his smaller parts in James Gunn directed The Suicide Squad (2021) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), even alike his much criticized take in first big screen adaptation of Judge Dredd (1995). Rather than imitate the ambitious, CGI-heavy films from Marvel or DC, this Julius Avery directorial is a smaller, more concentrated take that sees him play a retired superhero trying to hide away from his glory days while his city is drowning in crime.

While the somber toned film may not double down on the results we have come to expect from genre these days, it still is a decent effort that has a few tricks up its sleeve. Minimally plotted, the film offers a conventional but downbeat effort that is basic enough for superhero fans, and Stallone fans in general to enjoy.

Set in the fictional Granite City, the story follows Sam Cleary (Javon “Wanna” Walton), a 13 year old boy who lives with his widowed mother Tiffany (Dascha Polanco) in a squalid housing project and spends most of his time obsessing over his favorite superhero who supposedly died 25 years ago. Back then the city was the home of twin brothers with superhuman strength and endurance, dubbed Samaritan and Nemesis.

While Samaritan saved people around the city, while his brother apparently chose being the face of chaos. However, their conflict came to a violent end, leaving behind a legacy of devoted, hopeful fans like young Sam who still believe Samaritan survived the fateful duel and is hiding among people.

But when Sam is saved from a gang by Joe Smith (Sylvester Stallone), a loner garbage man who lives in the apartment building across the way, giving a brief demo of his super strength, he begins to believe that he has finally found his fallen hero. And when Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), the local mob leader sociopath, attempts to revive the mantle of Nemesis, complete with that hammer and a horde of revolutionary followers, Sam is caught between good and evil father figures, which kind of lays out Joe’s destiny for him.

Unlike what one would like to believe this isn’t a Stallone starring version of Unbreakable (2000), in the fact, the lower complexity of the script never allows it to be. Nevertheless, director Julius Avery shows a competent hand, and working with what appears to be a small budget, makes us feel like we’re in a universe not too far away from the MCU and DCEU.

One of the first things you immediately notice is the impressive inner-city world-building. The poverty-stricken Granite City is on the verge of collapse. Union strikes and unemployment has hit the urban areas the hardest with homelessness and crime on the rise. Director Avery captures the decaying city with remarkable detail.

The weathered concrete and asphalt; the rust and grime; the graffiti covered walls and the trash collecting along the streets. He gives us an authentic sense of place. There’s something interesting, if not previously unexplored, about a superhero choosing to fade into the background after years of service and there are small suggestions of a world that could house a more complex character. In Granite City, fans of both hero and villain remain, with the latter gaining more of a following as the economy dwindles, down to a perceived notion that the hero cared more for the rich and the villain for the poor.

Yes, it’s a little corny in a few spots, but it has its boots planted in the real world, and offers a few decent surprises that land effectively. And is probably at its best during the after-school-special portion of the proceedings, in which the taciturn Joe and eager Sam gradually if inevitably bond, with the latter unleashing his inner fanboy as he seeks to coax the old man to remove one mask and reclaim another.

The eventual action beats are done pretty well, using a mix of the 76-year-old Stallone, stunt doubles, and some decent CGI. There’s a slight camp element to how Stallone will face a warehouse full of thugs and basically go at them as he would in an Expendables film, pummeling them with fists of fury. In this case, though, a body he smashes will go flying 20 feet into a wall.

Performance wise, Sylvester Stallone is good as the gruff, grumbling old hero. The actor perfectly portrays the haunted and ageing superhero who is contemplating his own life and actions. It’s a quitter performance than we are used to from the actor. Javon “Wanna” Walton is decent enough making you root for him as much as you are rooting for Joe. Pilou Asbaek of Game of Thrones fame is absolutely menacing and crafts a completely believable villain. In other roles, Dascha Polanco, Martin Starr, and Moises Arias are alright. On the whole, ‘Samaritan’ is a decently compelling superhero take best reserved for fans of the genre and Stallone.

Directed –

Starring – Sylvester Stallone, Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton, Pilou Asbæk

Rated – PG13

Run Time – 102 minutes

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