Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Samaritan

The Samaritan

Directed by David Weaver

With decent performances and a generic script, The Samaritan is about as mediocre as a movie could possibly be, lending very little fresh material to the crime genre.

Could have easily become a jumbled mess, but thanks to fine direction and a decent script, it all manages to come together very cleanly. In fact, maybe even a little too cleanly. The plot is a bit contrived, borrowing key plot points from many other crime movies of the past, not least of which being Oldboy, which has one particularly major similarity I had a great deal of trouble overlooking. Watching this movie is like a guessing game of "name that cliche", with what few twists there are in this movie also being borrowed from other more effective films.

The entire cast deliver perfectly adequate performances, with Samuel L. Jackson and Ruth Negga standing out above the rest, despite not being particularly impressive themselves. Jackson plays an ex-con recently released from prison, and Negga plays a junkie prostitute. Both of these characters are so generic, it's hard to distinguish them from the thousands of movie characters in the past who were essentially the exact same people. None of the characters are ever explored beyond the simple cardboard cut-outs they appear to be, and what limited character development there is leaves little emotional impact. We don't come to care about them, making the weight of their predicament every bit as light and shallow as the characters themselves. They serve more as simple plot devices as opposed to actual people.

Not dramatic enough to be a drama, thrilling enough to be a thriller, or exciting enough to be action. It fuses various elements from these genres together, but not effectively enough to make it seem like anything you haven't already seen before. This movie doesn't succeed not because it doesn't have potential, but because it doesn't take any risks. Lack of originality can be forgiven as long as what is instead presented is powerful, or resonant in its own way. The Samaritan instead takes what we've already seen, but doesn't even attempt to escalate the material, making its entire existence seem pointless.

This is a movie that would have been far more effective had I never seen another movie before. Overwrought with cliches and stereotypes lifted from hundreds of superior movies, The Samaritan is about as generic as they come. Still, though this is by no means a good movie, it couldn't really be considered bad either. Despite being typical, predictable and dull, this movie is still well-paced, the acting is decent, and has good production quality. Though I would never recommend it to anyone, it was still a perfectly acceptable way to spend 90 minutes.

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