• 10 Sep - 16 Sep, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

You’re never too old to play a superhero. That’s the main takeaway from Samaritan, the new film starring Sylvester Stallone as an aging former vigilante with special powers who has quietly settled into retirement. Except, as such former Stallone characters as Rocky and Rambo have proved time and time again, retirement doesn’t always come easy for former warriors.

At first glance, Joe Smith (Stallone) wouldn’t seem to be the aged version of Samaritan, the former protector of Granite City, who disappeared 25 years earlier after fatally dispatching his evil arch-nemesis, named…Nemesis. Joe, a garbage man, shuffles around the dangerous, run-down urban environs sporting a heavy grey beard and perpetual hoodie, clearly not wanting to be bothered by anyone.

That desire to be left alone gets thwarted when Joe rescues the teenage Sam from being beaten by a gang of savage youths. After witnessing Joe dispatch, the much younger attackers with brutal efficiency, Sam becomes convinced that his benefactor is actually the superhero who supposedly died in a warehouse fire in his final battle with Nemesis. He becomes even more convinced after spying Joe, who happens to live across the street from him, taking off his shirt to reveal deep burn scars across his broad back.

Despite his curmudgeonly instincts, Joe eventually takes a shine to the worshipful Sam, especially after he meets the boy’s sympathetic single mother (Dascha Polanco), who’s struggling to raise him on her meager nurse’s salary. Not long afterward, the gang takes revenge on Joe by running him over with a car after spotting him on the street.

Director Julius Avery strains for a dark aesthetic, but what he achieves visually is undercut by the unintentional silliness of much of the proceedings and such hackneyed lines as Joe advising an adversary to ‘have a blast’ just before slipping him a bomb. There is, however, a clever plot twist in the final act that, while ultimately not mattering all that much, does provide a welcome jolt.

Stallone provides just the right amount of world-weary gravitas and deadpan humour to put over the hokey material. And he still has the requisite imposing physicality to make the sight of his character beating up men a quarter of his age fairly convincing. While the film proves a lesser entry in the drastically overcrowded superhero genre, it could be the beginning of a minor franchise for the veteran star.