Full disclosure, I'll watch just about anything with Sylvester Stallone (except maybe Stop, Or My Mom Will Shoot). And despite the fact that we're all experiencing some superhero fatigue, there was no way I could resist some Stallone-starring superhero cinema. He might not move like Rocky anymore, or have Rambo's physique, but his career isn't due for demolition, man.
Speaking of superhero fatigue, in Samaritan Stallone plays Joe Smith, a retired, tired, superhero. Or is he? Twenty-five years ago Samaritan (the good guy) nearly destroyed Granite City in a battle with his twin brother, Nemesis (the bad guy, natch). Afterward he disappeared, both brothers thought dead. Since then, crime has only gotten worse, and the residents struggle to make rent.
Not everyone believes that Samaritan is gone forever, including Sam (Javon “Wanna” Walton), a good kid going down a bad path. After Joe rescues Sam from the neighborhood toughs, he thinks he's found Samaritan. And after the same gang mows Joe down with a speeding car and he literally pulls his broken self back together, just needing a few quarts of ice cream to recover, Sam is sure. While Joe can't deny having superpowers, he insists he just picks up garbage.
While Sam is obsessed with Samaritan, the gang leader Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk) worships Nemesis as a god. The hero’s arch enemy had a hammer forged from his hate that could destroy Samaritan, and once Cyrus gets it he takes on the mantle of Nemesis and launches a reign of terror. What’s a kid and an old man to do?
“The decisions you make add up,” Sam’s mom (Dascha Polanco) says. Perhaps they can even tip the scale from evil to good.
Stallone isn’t just known for his 1980s action movie one-liners. As he’s gotten older, he seems to love dropping bits of wisdom. “If life was fair, everyone would get along,” he says. And later, “Breaking things is easy. Fixing them is therapeutic.” Finally, at the end, he tells Sam, “The real truth is, good and bad live in everybody’s heart. And it’s up to you to make the right choice.”
This struggle should sound familiar. Paul wrote to the Romans, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:19).
Most movies have some good and some bad, too. While Samaritan isn’t as good as it could be, it never goes over the top. The one PG-13 sanctioned F-word is pretty well-obscured, and the violence is mostly bloodless. The final action sequence is rousing, and I loved watching Stallone snarl while his stunt double and CGI avatar save the day. Even though the movie is less than two hours, it takes a long time getting there. (MGM, Amazon Prime)