IFC Films’ new release, The Samaritan, must have been, considering his role as star and executive producer, a project that Samuel L. Jackson really believed in to have invested his money and his time (though, significantly, not too much effort). But after a viewing of this film, I’m hard-pressed to understand what he could have possibly found, either in the script, the director, or the cast, to have made him consider even a single meeting about the film.
The Samaritan feels like a really bad TV movie, and that’s probably because director and co-writer, David Weaver, has spent his career thus far working in television. The story deals with a recently released convict (Jackson) who, after spending 25 years in prison for the murder of his old best friend and partner-in-crime, is called on by his old friend’s son, Ethan (played by the unbelievably bad Luke Kirby). Also in the mix is walking stereotype (as if the Taxi Driver ripoff name alone wasn’t suggestive enough) Iris (played by the slightly less bad Ruth Negga), recruited by Ethan as a pawn in his plan for Jackson. The ensuing plot involves Jackson being pulled back into his “old life,” a painfully awful love affair, and a ludicrous Oldboy style “twist” that accomplishes nothing (unless causing one to involuntarily face palm counts as an accomplishment).
For all of the bad in this film—and there’s plenty to go around—one would think, based on his extensive resume which overflows with memorable characters and powerful performances, that Jackson would at least provide a ray of sunshine in the darkness that is The Samaritan. But no. That most certainly is not the case. Due to screenwriting incompetence and an absence of directorial inspiration, the character as (poorly) conceived in the script offered zero qualities for Jackson to have seized upon to create another memorable character and thus ended up with no depth or resonance. With his legendary ferocity and his ability to deliver hard-hitting dialogue, Jackson is given a character that spends most of his time brooding, regretting the choices he’s made in his life, apologizing to people, and not saying anything of importance. At the very least, the script could have added in a little spice once Samuel L. Jackson became the lead. Give him at least one impassioned speech, let him be a terrifying bad ass for one or two scenes. It’s literally the least they could have done.
In the end, there is absolutely no redeeming value in The Samaritan, a very serious charge to be leveled at any film but one that is justified nevertheless. Fans of crime dramas, action movies, and/or Samuel L. Jackson should stay far away from this film so I can at least have the peace of mind to know that my sacrifice of viewing it and providing warning to unsuspecting film fans was not in vain.