Action legend Sylvester Stallone has dabbled in the superhero genre before, most notably as a Judge Drdd (1995), the Pest Stakar Ogord in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. (2017), and the voice of King Shark in The Suicide Squad (2021). (He reprized his role as Ravager for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.) With his new film Samaritan, Stallone plays an aging superhero living anonymously as a garbage collector, tormented by his past. Judging by the official trailer, it’s the perfect role for the 73-year-old action star, combining all the best elements of his long and illustrious career.
Samaritan is the brainchild of screenwriter Bragi Schut, best known for escape room (2019) and 2011 season of the witch. He first wrote a spec script for the movie about 10 years ago. But spec scripts can meander through the Hollywood studio ecosystem for years before they’re even picked, let alone development. So, in the meantime, Schut adapted his screenplay into a series of graphic novels for Mythos Comics, the opposite of the usual process these days, with studios vying for recognizable intellectual property to adapt into blockbuster movies.
First published in 2014, the comic book version shakes up the typical genre setting of a superhero arriving at a sump pit in a crime-ridden city to confront the bad guys and clean things up. This version depicts the gradual decay of the fictional city of Acropolis after its superhero, Samaritan, is presumably killed in battle against the aptly named superhuman Nemesis inside a burning warehouse. (Nemesis is also killed).
The story is told from the perspective of a young boy named Sam, a child who loves to draw and dream while his single mother works to save enough money so they can move to a safer place. Sam is the kind of kid who often gets bullied. He is also curious and soon begins to suspect that the aging garbage man who lives across the street might be more than meets the eye, i.e. he might be a Samaritan, living and living an anonymous retirement life.
MGM eventually acquired the spec script from Schut in 2019 and hired Julius Avery to direct. Filming was interrupted by the pandemic, which also delayed the film’s release date several times. When Amazon Studios acquired MGM earlier this year, it decided to release the film on its Prime Video streaming platform.
Given that Samaritan started out as a screenplay and was adapted into a graphic novel, many of the story elements from the latter were retained for the film. According to the official premise:
Thirteen-year-old Sam Cleary (Javon “Wanna” Walton) suspects that his mysterious and reclusive neighbor, Mr. Smith (Stallone), is actually a legend hidden in plain sight. Twenty-five years ago, Granite City’s super-powered vigilante, Samaritan, was pronounced dead after a fiery warehouse battle with his rival, Nemesis. Most believe Samaritan perished in the fire, but some in town, like Sam, hope he is still alive. With crime on the rise and the city on the brink of chaos, Sam makes it his mission to entice his neighbor out of hiding to save the city from ruin.
In addition to Stallone and Walton, the cast includes Pilou Asbaek (better known as Euron Greyjoy from game of thrones) as Cyrus; Dascha Polanco as Isabella; Martin Starr as Arthur; Moises Arias as Reza Smith; and Deacon Randle as the firefighter.
The trailer opens with garbage man Joe Smith collecting scrap metal on his rounds, just something to keep him busy. He is seen watching the evening news (with its litany of crime and violence) while eating a bowl of cereal, as the presenter predicts that the city will soon implode. But then Joe sees Sam being chased down an alley by bullies and comes to his rescue, revealing his super strength in the process. And Sam realizes he’s found Samaritan, who’s still alive 25 years after he was presumed dead.
Nobody believes Sam, of course, and even Joe denies it at first. But eventually, the two become an unlikely pair. Joe admits he’s not as strong as he once was: “Things start to fall apart when you stop caring. And I stopped caring a long time ago .” Joe clashes with Cyrus, who makes it clear to his henchmen that he wants Joe dead. Joe makes quick work of potential assassins. There’s plenty of action, but the trailer also teases the mystery of why Samaritan decided to disappear all those years ago in the first place. As someone says in a voiceover, “Things you bury tend to haunt you.”
Samaritan debuts August 26, 2022 on Prime Video.
Listing image by YouTube/Prime Video