Title: The Samaritan
Director: David Weaver
The Samaritan allows audience the pleasure, well, depending on your opinion of the guy, to see Samuel L. Jackson perform throughout the entire 90 minutes. He’s the star and is literally in every scene. Without cheating and looking on IMDb.com, it’s tough to recall the last the time the cool actor had to carry a flick in a lead capacity. So seeing him show, or attempt to show, some range in his depiction of a former criminal looking to go on the straight-n-narrow has an instant appeal early on.
Initially, the story is going through the fundamental motions of all these types of “looking for redemption, but can’t escape the past” tales. Mainly driven by dialogue, the script does entail a few interesting convos as Jackson reaches out, and is confronted, by people from his past. And during these chats, this is how we get to know the man, who was obviously respected in the criminal underworld.
Once the standard “reason/motivation to not go back to his old-ways” is introduced, via a young working-girl (Ruth Negga), the story begins to crawl even though the screenplay is choppy. And frankly, this leads to the story losing audiences’ interest. But then, there’s a mid-script twist that wakes one right back up and changes the dynamic of storytelling.
Now while the twist is inserted just to enable Jackson to perform the often alluded to “grift” – con a white-collar criminal (Tom Wilkinson in cameo mode) out of millions – sadly, the audience barely gets a glimpse of the planning stages. From there on, it’s just a montage of shots showing a ponderous Jackson reflecting and walking around a fancy apartment. There’s no engaging Ocean Eleven’s scheming sessions to be seen; we don’t get any idea on how this will get pulled off except for a vague dinner table discussion with a couple other people involved (Luke Kirby & Deborah Kara Unger); and even with another subtle twist right before, and during, the climatic showdown – which is as basic as one could get – the payoff is about as tasty and satisfying as eating cardboard wafers during church communion.
Even though the story gets across its point and the acting is fairly decent, the scattered and mostly uneventful screenplay dilutes the entertainment value. Seeing a few people get tortured and shot by refined criminals is one thing; but then complimenting that with Jackson just slogging around and raising his voice once in a while can only carry this so far.
Overall, The Samaritan needed assistance in the on-screen storytelling and editing department. It’s too vague and simplistic to lure an audience in all the way. There are some details, which if properly expounded upon, would have enabled this to be a more engrossing watch. It’s not painful, but it definitely didn’t appear to be final cut ready.
In other words, be glad I was your Samaritan and took this cinematic bullet for you.