The Samaritan

Samuel L. Jackson, these days maybe he doesn’t get the greatest roles. I mean it’s cool that David Hasselhoff handpicked him as his replacement when he passed on Dr. Fury or whatever in the Marvel Comics Books movies, but that’s a supporting player. You don’t see him carrying too many movies anymore. That’s why I had some hopes for this lower budget crime picture produced by IFC and given a very limited theatrical release, probly less screens than he has lines in THE AVENGERS.

(Actually, I just looked it up, and it opened on 3 screens and made $1,744 over the weekend. I don’t know if that’s exact or rounded to the nearest dollar. The reason I knew it was a theatrical release was because I remember it playing at the Grand Illusion in Seattle, a little place I wrote about in my HOLY MOUNTAIN review).

Jackson’s John Samaritan, called “Foley” in the movie, returns to the world after a 25 year bid for killing his best friend. I like the scenes where he goes around to his old friends and it’s obvious how long ago it was to all of them. They say nice things but tell him there’s no money left and they don’t want him around either. He doesn’t argue.

As you might guess, he wants to stay out of trouble, but somebody’s gonna drag him back into it. That somebody is Ethan (Luke Kirby, HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION), son of the dead partner, and sleazy owner of a dance club. Luke takes him around, makes him uncomfortable by exposing him to things you don’t want to be around the day after you got out, then tries to bring him in on a job. See, Foley and Pops were grifters, and Ethan wants to grift too, and has a grift he needs help from a grifter to grift. (I’m using the word “grift” alot to try to acclimate you, ’cause they use it alot in this movie.)

I always wanted to write a story called THE BAD SAMARITAN, but I didn’t know what it would be about. In this, “The Samaritan” refers to the name of the grift they intend to do on kingpin Tom Wilkinson, but also it’s gotta be a double meaning about his attempt to take care of a cute young heroin addict named Iris (Ruth Negga) who he rescues from a rapist in a bar bathroom.

Noteworthy casting detail: Gil Bellows from Ally McBeal is in this. When he’s in a Stone Cold Steve Austin movie or on Seagal’s True Justice he’s the main villain, in this one he plays a bartender. So that’s how we know Jackson isn’t full-on DTV yet. (Plus it played those 3 screens, remember?)

Foley is a pretty good role for Jackson. He gets to play his age, but also they point out that he looks good for his age. It’s both awkward and sweet when he has a super-young, drug addicted, suicidal girlfriend. They seem to get along well. So there’s a man-in-a-relationship side to the role, but also he gets to smack some guys up, yell at some guys, etc. Negga is pretty good as Iris. Not quite sloppy enough for how troubled she’s supposed to be, but not too sloppy to believe he’d like her.

The tone is pretty grim and humorless. It’s well made without any of the DTV trappings it might’ve had. No cheeseball guitars and techno scoring or that type of shit. It’s a real movie. But one I’ll probly forget about as quick as I did Renny Harlin’s THE CLEANER, I’m afraid. (Wasn’t that what it was called? And why didn’t I review it? Did I forget?)

This is a delicate spoiler to handle, but I’m gonna attempt it. There’s a twist that happens in this movie that is shocking and audacious, except that it’s something that also happens in a very famous movie that I’m positive Jackson is a fan of. In fact, he has a connection to the other movie that makes it even weirder that he would also do this one. I won’t be specific so as not to spoil either movie. It kind of distracted me wondering why they thought this idea was still open for use, but it does set up a really horrible situation for the characters with no easy solution, and actually seemed more believable in this version than in the (overall way better) original. There’s some queasy suspense about how it’s gonna be resolved.

The director/co-writer is a guy named David Weaver, who’s been around for a while, but this is one of his previous works:

He wrote THE SAMARITAN with Elan Mastai, who also wrote this:

So I’m gonna go ahead and say that it’s way better than it could’ve been.

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 18th, 2012 at 11:19 pm and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

13 Responses to “The Samaritan”

  1. I think I’ll stick with the better version of the thing that happens in this movie that happened in the other movie that was better. If I’m picking up the drift that you are laying down. Wink. Etc.

    This review didn’t make me want to watch this movie, but now I kinda want to see MVP2: Most…Vertical…Primate.


  2. Also, before I go, that CHARLIE & ME movie appears to a story of friendship between an old man and a young girl. Is that even legal?

    Okay, never mind. It’s her grandfather.

    Nothing untoward here. It’s all very toward.

  3. Wow I guess I never can predict Vern’s tastes. I hated this movie. I thought it was a boring copy of other grifter movies. The twist was the only thing that possibly made it worth discussing, but the direction and non Sam actors just looked like hacks ripping off other movies. The post Tarantino M.O., but I guess this would be pre post Tarantino because it goes back a little further.

  4. The Samaritan is pretty decent, although I’ve been so trained by con artist movies to look for the con before you’re supposed to be looking for the con that this movie completely threw me off, in that (spoiler alert) there is no con, it’s just a movie about a con man, he’s not being conned himself.

    That said, there are a lot of nice little touches, and it has a decent noir feel to it. It’s super low rent, in a good way–it gets across the banality of crime, as opposed to movies that glamorize it. Nothing here is overly gritty but it’s not overly glamorized, either–just played straight. I cared about Foley, I found his situation interesting, and although the resolution was a little too by-the-numbers, I liked where his character ended up.

    Don’t go out of your way to watch it, but don’t go out of your way to avoid it–which is to say that you’ll be half-awake one night ten years from now, flipping channels, and it’ll come up on IFC and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  5. I think I read somewhere that Samuel L. Jackson has the record of his films making the most of any actor out there. I think they just look at the films that he has acted in and then they add up their earnings. It looks like this film won’t add much to that record.

  6. After seeing the poster, and watching the trailer, MVP2 is my new Holy Grail in the Sports Chimp movie genre.

  7. The Continental Op

    November 19th, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Tom Wilkinson’s cameo in this is great. I was surprised to see him in such a low-budget DV-esque film but he really goes for it and creates this oddly camp aesthete instead of doing the whole Sexy Beast/IN Bruges “posh luvvie plays tough” thing they could have gone for. I read an interview with the director where he said Wilkinson really gave it his all and was full of questions about the character. Heartening to hear because it seems so low-rent. Also as an Irishman it was heartening to see the gorgeous Ruth Negga get a solid role in an American genre piece.

  8. is Oldboy the movie you’re talking? seriously, I need to know

    in other words, IT’S HIS DAUGHTER!?

  9. I just thought I should show you the UK bluray of this very same film, which casually came out around the same time as the Avengers:



  10. Vern, you cannot tease us with an image of Most Vertical Primate and not deliver a review some time in the near future. That would just be cruel.

  11. I thought it was pretty ballsy that Tom Wilkinson and Sam Jackson were actually the same guy the whole time. Someone did that before?

  12. I also thought it was ballsy when Sam Jackson TURNED OUT TO BE DEAD ENTIRE TIME!

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