Monday, June 11, 2012

The Samaritan (B-)

If there's any particular sub-genre in cinema that I'd be inclined to enjoy more than anything other, it would be the slightly idiotic, pulpy thriller. Though nearly all follow the same conventions, forcing the  predictability to the point where entire lines of dialogue can be recited due to sheer repetition from viewing multiple films from the genre, they're almost always able to provide, at the absolute least, cheap face-value entertainment with some thought involved. The expectations are always fairly low, and for me personally, the film only necessarily has to supply the satisfactory distractions of its genre to be enjoyed. However, it should be noted that enjoyment doesn't necessarily imply recommendation. Earlier in the year, I surprised even myself when I non-ironically praised the near universally panned Nicolas Cage thriller Seeking Justice. It was a throughly entertaining thriller, which achieved every low hanging goal set. But while I admittedly liked the film, I wouldn't recommend it because it never crossed any expectation, and failed to detach itself from the genre formula in any way. Seeking Justice was merely satisfactory pulp, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but isn't particularly excellent either. The Samaritan, an independent Samuel Jackson vehicle, sadly falls into the same trap; it's pure satisfactory pulp, and little more.

David Weaver's directing debut shows an almost extreme devotion to the conventional thriller formula in terms of plot: After being imprisoned for 20 years for the murder of his best friend, Foley (Samuel Jackson) is finally finished with his life of crime, and tries to start again with his new lover. However, his past is slowly catching up with him. It's by the books in almost every sense, so Weaver and Jackson resolve the problem by playing the formula to the best of their abilities, rather than tweak it too harshly. Other than a bizarre Oldboy-esque twist, and a downright ridiculous conclusion, every plot point, reveal, or piece of dialogue can be predicted from several minutes away. However, it's clear Weaver isn't necessarily trying anything too ambitious: What's more important is how well he directs what we already know.

Samuel Jackson gives one of his finer performances, or at least his finest in a while, as Foley, a former criminal trying to break clean from his former life of crime. Though he doesn't necessarily play the character with very much striking emotion, his lack of feeling gives the protagonist a nuanced detachment from the film surrounding it; a choice which works highly in the film's favor. Also very good is an almost cameoed Tom Wilkinson (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) as a notorious crime lord with an almost indecipherable accent. His performance is both simultaneously believable, and an enjoyably manic respite from the melancholic violence surrounding it. While both Luke Kirby and Ruth Negga play highly substantial roles, nothing can be said toward their performances, because they weren't particularly memorable.

The Samaritan is an entertaining, decent pulpy thriller. Though I know I enjoyed the film in the present, I would be curious to see how much I remember from it six months from now, because of how similar the film is to others of its ilk. Though I can honestly say I liked it, similar to Seeking Justice, I'm not particularly sure I can recommend it. It's simply satisfactory pulp, and little more.

Grade: B-

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