“The Samaritan” is a con, the signature grift of career criminal Foley (Samuel L. Jackson) before the cruel personal and professional consequences of his partner’s debt and greed land Foley in jail for 25 years. When he gets out, his partner’s son Ethan (Luke Kirby) can’t let go of the past and uses Foley’s history against him to get him to go in on an $8 million scam. Add to the mix a suicidal junkie with a heart of gold named Iris (Ruth Negga, in the Thandie Newton role), and who knows who’s really conning whom.
At least that’s what the filmmakers would like you to think. The reality is director David Weaver and co-writer Elan Mastai’s neo-noir script is just a shadow of the genre. The moody visuals are affected, with obtrusive color schemes that blare “Danger!” and “Safety!” with all the subtlety of a flashing neon sign. With a few exceptions, the dialogue is not nearly as hard-boiled as Jackson’s trademark delivery. And the montages to mark the development and dissolution of a romance are cliché.
The story hinges on a salacious secret that admittedly complicates matters for Foley, most significantly on an emotional level, but even this is resolved with a shrug. Worst of all, the grift at the center of the plot is abbreviated and unbelievable—as in, this reviewer with zero understanding of off-shore banking wouldn’t have fallen for it, let alone a sophisticated white-collar gangster like Xavier (Tom Wilkinson). The buildup suggests a con on the scale of Ocean’s Eleven. What we get in the film—and from the film—is a low-level hustle.
Director: David Weaver
Writers: Elan Mastai, David Weaver
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Luke Kirby, Ruth Negga, Tom Wilkinson
Release Date: May 18, 2012