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“Things start to fall apart when you stop caring” — Samaritan


“Things start to fall apart when you stop caring” — Samaritan

Home / “Things start to fall apart when you stop caring” — Samaritan
Column Superhero Movie Rewatch

“Things start to fall apart when you stop caring” — Samaritan


Published on January 4, 2023

Screenshot: Amazon
Screenshot: Amazon

From August 2017 – January 2020, Keith R.A. DeCandido took a weekly look at every live-action movie based on a superhero comic that had been made to date in the Superhero Movie Rewatch. In this latest revisit we’ve covered a few older films—Barbarella, Vampirella, and Sparks,—and the recently released Thor: Love and Thunder. Now we take a gander at Samaritan.

One of the more interesting things about this rewatch has been seeing how many actors have shown up multiple times in different roles. Most notable are the few who’ve played four or more: Josh Brolin (Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, plus roles in Jonah Hex, Deadpool 2, Men in Black 3, and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), Idris Elba (Heimdall in the MCU, plus roles in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, The Losers, and The Suicide Squad), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen, Jonah Hex, The Losers, and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice), Ryan Reynolds (Wade Wilson/Deadpool in Fox’s X-Men series, plus roles in Blade Trinity, Green Lantern, and R.I.P.D.), and Mark Strong (Merlin in the Kingsman movies, plus roles in Green Lantern, Kick-Ass, and Shazam!).

With Samaritan, Sylvester Stallone joins these ranks.

Having played the title role in Judge Dredd, Stakar in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, and King Shark in The Suicide Squad, the erstwhile Rocky Balboa once again steps into a starring role with Samaritan, a movie about the legacy of a superhero and his nemesis (actually called Nemesis), both of whom were believed killed twenty-five years previous.

Originally written as a film spec script by Bragi F. Schut, Samaritan was made into a graphic novel by Mythos Comics in 2014. In 2019, Stallone’s production company and MGM optioned the story, with the man himself to star. Schut’s script was left intact, making this the fourth film in this rewatch (after Timecop, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, and The Old Guard) to have the writing credits of both source material and movie adaption be perfect matches.

Alongside Stallone as Joe Smith, a sanitation worker with a secret, the movie stars Javon “Wanna” Walton (recently also seen in The Umbrella Academy season three) as Sam, a teenager who thinks Samaritan is still alive, Dascha Polanco as Sam’s mother Tiffany, Pilou Asbæk as a criminal named Cyrus, Moises Arias, Sophia Tatum, Jared Odrick, and Michael Aron Milligan as Cyrus’ various henchthugs, and Martin Starr (last seen in this rewatch in The Incredible Hulk and the three MCU Spider-Man films, and who is also starring alongside Stallone in Tulsa King) as a journalist who also believes that Samaritan is still alive.

The movie was all set to be released theatrically in the fall of 2020, and then 2020 happened. After a bunch of apocalypse-related delays, and the purchase of MGM by Amazon Studios, it was finally released as an Amazon Prime original in August of 2022.


“I’m a troglodyte”

Written by Bragi F. Schut
Directed by Julius Avery
Produced by Sylvester Stallone and Braden Aftergood
Original release date: August 26, 2022

Screenshot: Amazon

In voiceover, teenager Sam Cleary tells the story of twin brothers in Granite City, both born with great strength and invulnerability. Because they had trouble controlling their strength as children, they were feared and hated, and a mob burned their house down, killing their parents—but the twins survived. One became a hero, Samaritan, but the other, Nemesis, became a villain, consumed as he was with anger and hate. The two had a final confrontation twenty-five years ago, an explosion said to have killed them both.

But some think Samaritan lives. Including Sam. He lives with his mother Tiffany, who works long hours as a nurse (she has to borrow money from her son to pay for the bus). His father is out of the picture, though specifics on that are never forthcoming. Sam is convinced by Jace, one of his fellow kids, who regularly makes fun of Sam’s short height, to help him steal some copper wire and other junk to sell. They only get forty bucks for the junk, but Reza—who’s a flunky for Cyrus, the main gangster in town—offers to cut them in on a thieving job. Jace refuses, but Sam goes along, being the distraction for a bodega robbery.

The robbery goes fine, but the boxes Reza takes just have bags of potato chips. Reza blames Sam, even though it wasn’t his fault, but when Cyrus shows up and asks if Reza’s lying, Sam refuses to rat him out. However, Sam’s gumption impresses Cyrus, and he gives Sam ten bucks for the job and another hundred for future work.

Sam goes home to find that they’ve been evicted—again. This is a regular occurrence, as the rent is due on the first, but Tiffany doesn’t get paid until the fifth of the month. Sam gives the landlord the money he got from Cyrus, which gets the eviction notice removed. (How even a crappy apartment in a city has rent as low as $100/month is left as an exercise for the viewer.)

We also meet Joe Smith, a sanitation worker who often dumpster-dives for bits of junk he can try to fix. He lives across the way from Sam, and at one point he walks past Sam while carrying a busted radio. Joe often collects stuff, fixes it, and then sells it to a pawn shop.

Reza is pissed that Sam got paid for the bodega job, and he and his buddies beat Sam up. Joe sees this and comes to his rescue, showing tremendous strength and durability, including bending a switchblade out of shape with his bare—unbleeding—hands.

Sam immediately goes to the bookstore owned by a journalist named Albert Casler, who has written a book about Samaritan. Sam has apparently made this journey several times before, and Casler has come to view him as the boy who cried wolf—or, rather, cried Samaritan, as he has thought any number of people, from his school’s custodian to a postal worker, were Samaritan. Casler does show Sam a picture of Nemesis’ hammer, which he allegedly forged out of hatred for his brother, and which is the only weapon that can harm either twin. It was found at the site of their apparent death, and is police custody.

Screenshot: Amazon

Cyrus, though, has designs on the hammer. He—and lots of people in the poorer sections of Granite City—view Nemesis as the hero, and Samaritan as just another lackey of the rich like the cops are. He’s gotten his hands on some blackout bombs, which have a small explosive radius but also function as an EMP. He uses one to break into evidence control and steal Nemesis’ hammer and helmet. His plan is to pick up Nemesis’ MO of sowing anarchy and chaos.

Reza is pissed about Joe, and runs him down. Joe survives, though he needs to cool down as he heals himself, as every time he’s hurt, he overheats. (It’s why his fridge is filled with ice cream.)

Cyrus recruits Sam for his gang, and Sam goes along at first, but he becomes more than a little squicked out by how violent Cyrus is. Sam also develops a friendship with Joe, despite the latter’s reluctance. Joe, however, never cops to being Samaritan, despite Sam imploring him to do so. At one point, Sam gives Joe his old broken watch to fix.

Reza discovers, to his shock and annoyance, that Joe is still alive. He and some punks go after Joe, and when fisticuffs and bullets and knives all don’t work, Reza’s cousin Farshad uses one of the blackout bombs. Joe saves the life of both himself and a little girl by yanking a car ninety degrees for protection—and does so while surrounded by a crowd of people all taking videos on their phones.

The news spreads all across Granite City that Samaritan is alive and well and saving people again. Cyrus is livid, and is told by Farshad that the sanitation worker who saved Sam is the guy they’re talking about on the news.

Cyrus kidnaps Sam to lure Joe to him. For his part, Joe was going to leave town to avoid all this publicity, but then he discovers Sam’s watch in his pocket, having fixed it. He returns to the apartment complex to find a devastated Tiffany, who says Sam’s been kidnapped by Cyrus.

Joe steals his garbage truck and loads it up with barrels of explosive material. He plows into Cyrus’ HQ and beats the crap out of his seemingly endless supply of thugs while also using a device to detonate the truck, causing a massive fire. However, Cyrus has Nemesis’ hammer, and he uses that to put a beating on Joe, constantly taunting him by calling him the good guy.

At which point, Joe says he’s not the good guy—he’s the bad guy. He’s Nemesis. Samaritan really did die twenty-five years ago, and Nemesis gave up being a villain out of guilt for his brother’s death. Joe winds up tossing Cyrus into a fiery chasm, which is the exact same way Samaritan died twenty-five years earlier. He rescues Sam, who then tells the press that Samaritan lives.


“I’m not the good guy, I’m the bad guy!”

Screenshot: Amazon

This is a perfectly cromulent movie. It’s worth watching because Stallone does a superb job of playing the cranky old bastard who happens to have super powers and who also has mostly run out of fucks to give. (What few he has left wind up all going to Sam.)

Unfortunately, I saw the big revelation at the climax coming a mile off. In fact, I saw it coming from the very top of the movie when Sam’s voiceover established that Samaritan and Nemesis were twins who both had the same powers. From that moment, I figured that Joe was Nemesis, because that was the obvious “twist,” and twenty-first-century dramatic fiction writers are never happier when they’re pulling a twist out of their posteriors.

It soured my entire viewing experience, unfortunately, because I was wondering why it never occurred to anybody that Joe could be Nemesis. After all, every argument that he could be Samaritan also applies to him being Nemesis, including guilt over being responsible for the death of his brother causing him to give up his costumed identity. I mean, it’s probably better that they established that they were twins right off, as saving that fact for near the end of the movie would’ve been even worse, but still, one wishes for a way to make that revelation less blindingly obvious.

Javon “Wanna” Walton does a very good job of playing an obnoxious thirteen-year-old kid, which is both a strength and a weakness of the movie. Martin Starr is tremendous fun as Casler, while most of the rest of the cast reads their lines perfectly competently. Pilou Asbæk’s wide-eyed demeanor and perfect diction make him rather less than convincing as an American inner-city gang leader, but at least he’s having fun chowing down on the scenery.

The action scenes are well filmed and choreographed, and I particularly like that Joe’s great strength is never downplayed.

Ultimately, this is a perfectly fine movie. Not one of the greats, not actively terrible, but it tells the story it sets out to tell in a competent and somewhat compelling manner. And again, Stallone is superb.


Next week, Dwayne Johnson’s passion project finally comes to fruition, as we take a gander at Black Adam.

Keith R.A. DeCandido is also rewatching Star Trek: Enterprise every week on this site. He just finished season two, with the rewatch of “The Expanse” having gone up yesterday, and the overview of the season set to go up on Monday the 9th.

About the Author

Keith R.A. DeCandido


Keith R.A. DeCandido has been writing about popular culture for this site since 2011, primarily but not exclusively writing about Star Trek and screen adaptations of superhero comics. He is also the author of more than 60 novels, more than 100 short stories, and around 50 comic books, both in a variety of licensed universes from Alien to Zorro, as well as in worlds of his own creation. Read his blog, follow him on Facebook, The Site Formerly Known As Twitter, Instagram, Threads, and Blue Sky, and follow him on YouTube and Patreon.
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