The Samaritan – 2012
Director David Weaver
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Wilkinson, Luke Kirby, Ruth Negga, Gil Bellows, Aaron Poole, Debra Kara Unger
Screenplay Weaver and Elan Mastai
Iris: “I can’t remember the last time I did something I was proud of.”
Foley: “I know what you mean.”
Foley (Jackson) is a grifter, who did 25 years after killing his partner and best friend. The week he gets out, he has his past waiting for him. And it hits him with both barrels. The path he is set up for is about as brutal as one could imagine. And that’s only the first half of the film.
The Samaritan is Canadian film noir, with a twist. It’s not often we see a character that Sam plays who is put in the position that Foley is, but when it happens, it’s nice to know that Sam would still handle it the same way. That means someone is gonna pay, over and over again. This time, though…so is he.
The trick behind the “one last con” movie is how it is the con man is brought into the act. The Samaritan does a credible job making this horribly intriguing. People who live a life of crime are rarely enjoying anything that they are doing. Foley and the partners he is forced to take are all convincing examples of this. One of these people is Helen, played by Debra Kara Unger. If she has ever smiled on celluloid, I have not seen it.
As his main partner Ethan, Kirby does a good job playing up the sleaze. He talks too much, but can keep secrets. He is dangerous, but all too vulnerable. Everything he does has to be “fixed,” and his energy never wanes.
Jackson is allowed to exercise his remarkable range in this film His films have made more money than most actors in Hollywood, but the ones that make money usually need nothing more than his scowl, foul mouth and a gun. This one has that and much more. He plays a man who could be smarter, but 25 years in the clink have given him a knowledge of only what it takes to be a prisoner. He is used to the grift, and he understands human nature, but sometimes that isn’t enough.
As Iris, Ruth Negga shows some talent, and then again, her role is a thankless one. She has to be a victim, and her defiance is muted by the plot. We don’t get to hear her expound too much on her life as a victim, and that is a plus.
The ending is clever, but really, the only way it can turn out. Anyone looking for the cure for cancer will be disappointed. Someone looking for Sam approaching the upper reach of his talent might be more pleasantly surprised.
(*** out of *****)