Published May 17, 2012Despite recycling familiar American cinematic tropes, following Foley (Samuel L. Jackson), a newly paroled convicted murderer, as he faces a violent and tumultuous past that haunts him in the present, there is much about David Weaver's The Samaritan that is distinctly Canadian.
Chiefly, the sombre, despondent tone of the film suppresses the more obvious genre clichés while Foley tries to navigate and avoid the intense interest of Ethan (Luke Kirby), the son of the man he was charged with murdering. Ethan's criminal coercion is transparent, as are the abundance of occasionally disgusting plot twists, but these machinations are merely filler for the character story at hand.
As Foley reluctantly delves back into the con-man lifestyle he so desperately wants to escape, a sense of Canuck isolation and cyclic defeat looms, letting us know that his slightly perverse relationship with the much younger, damaged drug addict, Iris (Ruth Negga), can't end happily ever after. The routine American optimism of the redemption thriller genre is replaced by a defeatist sensibility that feels globally incidentally, rather than epicentral.
In such, appreciation of this somewhat perverted and occasionally overwrought drama has much to do with expectations. Surely the inclusion of Samuel L. Jackson and the promise of thrills will attract an audience that won't know what to do with a film that, like Jane Campion's In the Cut, cares very little about the central plot or mystery. But some might appreciate the more grounded and introspective approach to understanding violence in relation to one's identity, noting how carefully the impetus of change is handled within.
While predictable and a tad heavy-handed, at times, something about this low-key thriller works in a very frank and discomforting way. It's also a more complex and intriguing role for Jackson to take, playing against his usual enraged, no nonsense archetype as a subdued, almost defeated shell of a man going through the motions of life simply because there are no other options. (eOne)