“25 years ago the world’s greatest superhero vanished,” according to the poster for Prime Video’s “Samaritan.” The narration by Sam (Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton) that opens the film gives us the Cliffs Notes version of how he did. Samaritan had a nemesis, a twin brother named—you guessed it—Nemesis.
As kids “they were freakishly strong,” Sam tells us, and their inability to control their strength terrified the residents of Granite City. So, the residents padlocked their family in their house and set it on fire. The blaze killed their parents, but the mutant twins survived. Samaritan grew up to fight crime in the same city whose denizens burnt his parents to a crisp, but Nemesis’ understandable hatred made him a villain. Since his brother was now the enemy, Nemesis poured all his hatred for his brother into a gigantic hammer that became Samaritan’s Kryptonite and …
No, I’m not making this up, and yes, I’m writing this review sober. I haven’t even gotten to the part where both brothers kick the bucket when a power plant explosion interrupts their sibling rivalry. All of this information is crammed into the opening credits. I must give props to Walton for the enthusiastic reading of these details from Bragi F. Schut’s screenplay, and to the animators who bring it to life. The bombastic score by Kevin Kiner and Jed Kurzel is just obnoxious and overbearing enough to almost convince you that this overwritten origin story should be taken seriously. We’re told both characters perish, taking out the power grid with them, but Sam tells us he believes Samaritan is still alive.
Why does Sam believe this? The movie doesn’t offer any explanation, nor does it delve into the conspiracy theory being floated around in author Albert Casler’s (Martin Starr) book “Samaritan Lives.” Sam keeps running to Albert every time he sees an old person display an ounce of strength, only to be disproven time and time again. Sam draws notebooks full of Samaritan’s exploits and spray paints his logo on dumpsters. He even has one of those walls you see in conspiracy movies, except his is on his closet door. This is a 40-year-old paranoid man trapped in a 13-year-old’s body.
Even more ridiculous is Granite City itself. It’s covered in graffiti, vacant lots and alleys and looks like the descriptions of cities Fox News uses to scare its viewers. You almost expect Austin Butler’s Elvis from that Baz Luhrmann movie to hop over to Amazon from pay-per-view so he can stroll down the street singing “In the Ghetto.” This place is also crime ridden, with Sam committing petty theft with teenagers who work for the evil Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk). One of these kids has rainbow-colored braids and is covered with tattoos. His evil is so over-the-top he feels ported over from “Robocop 2.” The way Sam feels about Samaritan is the way Cyrus feels about Nemesis, so much so that he wants to emulate him and destroy Granite City.
As for Samaritan, Sam’s next door neighbor, a garbage man named Joe, might be the real deal. He’s played by a gray-bearded Sylvester Stallone, so you know he’s no regular trash hauler. Joe arouses suspicion when he beats up the aforementioned teenagers after they turn against Sam. Even further arousals of suspicion occur when Sam breaks into Joe’s house and finds a scrapbook filled with newspaper clips about Samaritan. Then, of course, there’s the scene in the trailer where Joe gets smashed to bits by a car driven by the folks he just beat up, and his body fixes itself.
There are so many holes in “Samaritan”’s screenplay that the movie needs to move faster than it does if it is to outrun them. Director Julius Avery throws lots of carnage on the screen, but even that becomes so repetitive that the mind wanders back to asking questions. Like, if Samaritan was world-renown and everyone knew his powers, how come dozens of people keep shooting at him or trying to punch him out? And what is the deal with the power-zapping grenades the bad guys use? Apparently, they cause massive explosions, but in one instance, a character detonates one without throwing it and doesn’t blow him up. The movie is so bored with itself that it can’t keep its own weapons straight.
Twenty-seven years ago, Sylvester Stallone played a similar type superhero in “Judge Dredd.” Now, I didn’t think that movie was as bad as many people did. I found some amusement in Stallone’s commitment to playing the role in a completely humorless fashion, and in him repeatedly screaming “I am the LAW!” Plus, “Judge Dredd” had the decency to be rated R. “Samaritan” is extremely violent and even more bloodless so that it can get the cynically applied PG-13. People get hit in the head with giant sledgehammers, shot with automatic weapons, and punched by a man whose strength should make them explode. There’s also Stallone outrunning a burning, collapsing building, something he did already in the much more enjoyable “Expendables 3.”
Until I’m proven wrong, I’m going to keep writing that the majority of these straight-to-streaming movies are not meant to be watched with any semblance of attention being paid. I’m a damn fool for trying to follow this movie, because there are no characters to care about and no follow throughs on the world building it attempts. It even has a twist that you should be able to predict during the opening credits, and the film doesn’t even do anything useful with that potentially interesting development. “Samaritan” proves, to paraphrase Tina Turner, that we don’t need another superhero.
Samaritan Cast: Where You’ve Seen The Actors Before
Sylvester Stallone has done a lot throughout his career, including launching one of the most successful sports movies franchise of all time and becoming a box office champ for six-straight decades.
And though he has appeared in a few superhero movies in recent years, Stallone hasn’t led a comic book adaptation since the 1995 adaptation of Judge Dredd.
That all changes with Samaritan, Julias Avery’s Amazon original movie, which sees Stallone take on the role of a retired masked vigilante who reluctantly comes out of the shadows.
If you have watched, or are planning to watch the gritty 2022 movie and want to know where you’ve seen Stallone and the rest of the Samaritan cast before but can’t put your finger on it, don’t worry because we’re about to break it all down now…
Sylvester Stallone (Joe)
Starting things off is Sylvester Stallone himself, who takes on the role of a former superhero who reluctantly gets back in the crime-fighting game after an encounter with a young boy in trouble in Samaritan. Though this is first time playing a traditional superhero since taking on the titular role in 1995’s Judge Dredd, Stallone has made appearances in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and The Suicide Squad (as the voice of King Shark), both of which were directed by James Gunn. And there’s more on the way…
Throughout his career, which goes back more than 50 years, Stallone has become one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood thanks to successful film franchises like Rocky and Rambo, as well as some undeniably badass roles in some of the best action movies of all time.
Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton (Sam Cleary)
Next up is Javon “Wanna” Walton, who appears on the Samaritan cast as Sam Cleary, the boy whose rescue by Joe leads to the former superhero coming out of the shadows for the first time in years following a tragic accident.
The up-and-coming Walton will instantly be recognized by fans of the popular HBO teen drama series Euphoria, on which he has played Ashtray O’Neil throughout the duration of the show. Since breaking out a few years ago, Walton has landed roles on shows likes The Umbrella Academy as well as the 2021 animated feature film The Addams Family 2, in which he replaced Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard as the voice of Pugsley Addams.
Pilous Asbæk (Cyrus)
Stepping in as the villainous Cyrus in Samaritan is Pilous Asbæk, who has established himself as one of the most dynamic and terrifying “bad guy” actors in show business these past few years.
Asbæk found a great deal of success in his native Denmark and smaller roles in various Hollywood productions throughout his career before landing the role of the despicable and treacherous Euron Greyjoy on the Game of Thrones cast in the HBO fantasy series’ final few seasons, quickly establishing himself as one of the show’s most evil villains. Since then, Asbæk has appeared in movies like Outside the Wire, Run Sweetheart Run, and Uncharted, briefly appearing in the film’s end credits sequence. He is also set to appear in the delayed Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom in an undisclosed role.
Dascha Polanco (Tiffany Cleary)
Taking on the role of Sam Cleary’s mother Tiffany in Samaritan is Dascha Polanco, who fans of a certain classic Netflix original series will instantly recognize.
Since making a name for herself as Dayanara “Daya” Diaz on Orange is the New Black, on which she appeared in all but 10 episodes, Polanco has gone on to appear in several of the most decorated series of the past half-decade. This includes major roles on The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, Russian Doll, and When They See Us, to name a few. During that same stretch of time, Polanco has landed roles in movies like The Cobbler, The Irishman, In the Heights, and most recently, DC League of Super-Pets, in which she voiced Green Lantern.
Moisés Arias (Reza)
Showing up on the Samaritan cast as Reza, one of the lackeys in Cyrus’ gang, is Moisés Arias, who has come a long way since his days of playing Rico on the Disney Channel original series Hannah Montana back in 2006.
In the years following his initial success in front of the camera, Arias has shown up on a variety of Disney programs including Wizards of Waverly Place, The Suite Life on Deck, and Phineas and Ferb, as well as other shows like The Middle and The Good Doctor. His film credits include everything from voice roles in the likes of Despicable Me 2, Astro Boy, and The Secret World of Arrietty to live-action films including Ender’s Game, The King of Staten Island, The Stanford Prison Experiment, Pitch Perfect 3, and Blast Beat.
Martin Starr (Albert Casler)
Taking on the role of Albert Casler in Samaritan is Martin Starr, who is no stranger to appearing in superhero movies or projects about those some would consider outcasts from society.
In recent years, Martin Starr has become a great source of comedy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Roger Harrington, Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) science teacher at Midtown School of Science and Technology who always seems to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Starr also played a younger version of the character in The Incredible Hulk. Starr, who got his break as Bill Haverchuck on the Freaks and Geeks cast back in 1999, has continued to find success on the small screen, with appearances on Party Down, Drunk History, and Silicon Valley, to name only a few.
Sophia Tatum (Sil)
And then there is Sophia Tatum, who takes on the role of Sil, another one of Cyrus’ lackeys in Samaritan.
Though she doesn’t have quite as many credits to her name as other members of the Samaritan cast, Tatum has been part of some major projects in recent years. This includes a brief appearance in the incredibly successful F9: The Fast Saga in summer 2021 and the most recent season of The CW’s Riverdale series, in which she portrayed Agent Jillian Drake.
This is just a portion of the Samaritan cast, as the likes of Shameik Moore, Jared Odrick, and several others appear throughout the Sylvester Stallone-led Amazon original. And don’t forget to check out our guide to all the other upcoming superhero movies coming out this year and beyond.