The Samaritan takes an unsuccessful stab at film noir
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Luke Kirby, and Ruth Negga. Rated 14A.
Clunkily executed and ultimately awful as it might be, The Samaritan gets a couple of pity points for its above-and-beyond effort to shock. To say how it accomplishes this would be to ruin one of the few legitimately engaging moments in this flat, Toronto-shot tale of a jailbird trying to fly straight. Let’s just say that director-coscreenwriter David Weaver will definitely get audiences gasping, mostly because unsavoury doesn’t begin to describe the film’s most important plot twist.
Too bad The Samaritan, which feels like a CBC movie of the week taking an unsuccessful stab at film noir, didn’t play things nasty from start to finish. The movie finds Samuel L. Jackson in the role of morally conflicted ex-con Foley, who’s just done a 20-year jail sentence for killing his former partner in crime. A grifter by trade, he finds himself pressured into returning to the game by his partner’s son Ethan (a cartoonishly intense Luke Kirby, who doesn’t seem to grasp that a little restraint goes a long way).
The Samaritan, which is actually set in Toronto, never manages to find the right tone, the film all maudlin, molasses-slow introspection for the first half, rushed-feeling crime caper the second. If there’s a bright spot, it’s Ruth Negga, who, as a smack-sick damaged-goods hooker named Iris, manages to inject some life into a played-out archetype. It’s only when she hooks up with Foley that The Samaritan finally comes alive, albeit briefly. Their chemistry is nothing short of electric, to the point where it’s far more interesting than the entirely unconvincing con job that The Samaritan quickly reverts to. In the end, the only thing that’s really shocking is how Jackson has sunk from Pulp Fiction to this amateurish botch job.
Watch the trailer for The Samaritan.