×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Samaritan

An example of what might be called Toronto noir, "The Samaritan" proceeds down a routine path as a crime drama, despite the best efforts of Samuel L. Jackson as an ex-con doing his damnedest to go straight.

With:
Foley - Samuel L. Jackson Ethan - Luke Kirby Iris - Ruth Negga Xavier - Tom Wilkinson Helena - Deborah Kara Unger Gretchen - Martha Burns Miro - Alan C. Peterson Jake - Aaron Poole Deacon - Tom McCamus Bartender Bill - Gil Bellows

An example of what might be called Toronto noir, “The Samaritan” proceeds down a routine path as a crime drama, despite the best efforts of Samuel L. Jackson as an ex-con doing his damnedest to go straight. If anything, this Canadian production misses a great opportunity to dig into its setting and examine the dark side of seemingly pristine Toronto, even as the script by Elan Mastai and director David Weaver labors over a mostly boilerplate storyline. IFC’s May rollout will do killer biz in VOD but only modest numbers in theatrical.

Longtime grifter Foley (Jackson) exits prison after a 25-year stint for murder to find that much has changed in the outside world, as an ex-partner, Gretchen (Martha Burns), tells him all their cohorts are dead or nearly so. Parole officer Deacon (vet Canuck actor Tom McCamus) keeps Foley on a short leash, but there’s no need for that, as this ex-con, operating by the rule of thumb that one mustn’t make the same mistake twice, is determined to walk the straight and narrow.

Of course, the more he insists on going one way, the more he’s certain to end up going another. Foley does land a solid job in Toronto’s bustling construction industry, but a dark cloud follows him in the form of nefarious club owner and gangster Ethan (Luke Kirby). Ostensibly wanting to recruit Foley for a swindle, Ethan is in fact out to punish him for killing his father, Eddie (also Kirby, seen in flashback), who used to partner with Foley until one difficult grift that went south. Iris (Ruth Negga), a hooker on Ethan’s payroll, is made to seduce Foley, but she also holds the key to an emotionally devastating secret.

Ethan is one of those punk operators in a shark suit who thinks he has everyone under his thumb — until he doesn’t, which is when Foley’s stripes as a pro crook finally emerge. Jackson appears far more comfortable and engaged when the heat turns on than in the pic’s early, glumly paced sections, in a role that allows him more room to explore a character’s erotic life than he previously has. Unexpectedly — but in the end, not very effectively — a Tarantino-esque dimension emerges, not care of Jackson but in the form of effete Brit crime boss Xavier (Tom Wilkinson), prone to opining about wines like a sommelier before viciously dispatching his opponents.

Once Ethan’s scheme shifts into gear, with Foley in charge, “The Samaritan” suddenly appears in a hurry to wrap up rather than deliver the kind of deliciously intricate plotting that makes well-done movie grifts such a pleasure to witness. The sudden appearance of a new member of Foley’s team (the always compelling Deborah Kara Unger) and her just-as-sudden departure provide the tale with a new twist but rob it of complexity.

Jackson’s additional role as exec producer indicates his strong commitment to the material, even if the result doesn’t support his unique powers onscreen. Kirby overdoes the smirky bad-guy routine, while Negga brings some energy to that oldest of chestnuts, the hooker with that golden heart.

Francois Dagenais’ widescreen lensing is standard-issue but comes alive during some superbly rendered nighttime scenes that reek of noir. Other production credits are solid if not notable, with composer Todor Kobakov supplying the kind of spare, smart, piano-based score that works so well because there’s so little of it; Hollywood composers take note.

The Samaritan

Canada

Production: An IFC Films (in U.S.) release of an H2O Motion Pictures presentation of an Andras Hamori production in association with Quickfire Films, Telefilm Canada, Ontario Media Development Corp., Astral Media, the Harold Greenberg Fund, Silver Screen, Lumino Pictures, Middle Child Films. Produced by Hamori, Suzanne Cheriton, David Weaver, Elan Matai, Tony Wosk. Executive producers, Mark Musselman, Lacia Kornylo, Geoffrey Brandt, Mark Horowitz, James Atherton, Jan Pace, Samuel L. Jackson, Eli Selden. Directed by David Weaver. Screenplay, Elan Mastai, Weaver.

Crew: Camera, (Deluxe color, widescreen, HD), Francois Dagenais; editor, Geoff Ashenhurst; music, Todor Kobakov; music supervisor, Amy Fritz; production designer, Matthew Davies; art director, Peter Emmink; set decorator, David Edgar; costume designer, Patrick Antosh; sound (stereo), Herwig Gayer; supervising sound editor, David McCallum; re-recording mixers, Keith Elliott, Mark Zsifkovits; special effects supervisor, Mark Ahee; visual effects, Optix Digital Pictures; stunt coordinator, Randy Butcher; line producer, Derek S. Rappaport; associate producers, Jane Tattersall, Cynthia Graves, Ben Murray, David Sparkes; assistant director, Avrel Fisher; second unit director, Kerric MacDonald; second unit camera, Billy Buttery; casting, Nina Gold, Jenny Lewis, Sara Kay. Reviewed at Santa Barbara Film Festival, Jan. 29, 2012. Running time: 93 MIN.

With: Foley - Samuel L. Jackson Ethan - Luke Kirby Iris - Ruth Negga Xavier - Tom Wilkinson Helena - Deborah Kara Unger Gretchen - Martha Burns Miro - Alan C. Peterson Jake - Aaron Poole Deacon - Tom McCamus Bartender Bill - Gil Bellows

More Film

  • Bette Midler

    Bette Midler to Perform on the Oscars (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bette Midler will perform “The Place Where Lost Things Go” at the Oscar ceremonies on Feb. 24, Variety has learned. Midler, a longtime friend of composer-lyricist Marc Shaiman, will sing the song originally performed by Emily Blunt in “Mary Poppins Returns.” The song, by Shaiman and his lyricist partner Scott Wittman, is one of five [...]

  • Olmo Teodoro Cuaron, Alfonso Cuaron and

    Alfonso Cuarón Tells Why His Scoreless 'Roma' Prompted an 'Inspired' Companion Album

    Back around the ‘90s, “music inspired by the film” albums got a bad name, as buyers tired of collections full of random recordings that clearly were inspired by nothing but the desire to use movie branding to launch a hit song. But Alfonso Cuarón, the director of “Roma,” is determined to find some artistic validity [...]

  • Berlin Film Festival 2019 Award Winners

    Berlin Film Festival 2019: Nadav Lapid's 'Synonyms' Wins Golden Bear

    Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s “Synonyms,” about a young Israeli man in Paris who has turned his back on his native country, won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale on Saturday. The Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize went to François Ozon’s French drama “By the Grace of God,” a fact-based account of the Catholic Church [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel,' 'Lego Movie 2' to Lead President's Day Weekend

    “Alita: Battle Angel” is holding a slim lead ahead of “Lego Movie 2’s” second frame with an estimated four-day take of $29.1 million from 3,790 North American locations. “Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” meanwhile, is heading for about $25 million for a domestic tally of around $66 million. The two films lead the pack [...]

  • Marianne Rendon, Matt Smith, Ondi Timoner

    Robert Mapplethorpe Biopic Team Talks 'Fast and Furious' Filming

    Thursday night’s New York premiere of the Matt Smith-led biopic “Mapplethorpe” took place at Cinépolis Chelsea, just steps from the Chelsea Hotel where the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe once lived — but director Ondi Timoner had no sense of that legacy when she first encountered him in a very different context. “When I was ten [...]

  • Bruno GanzSwiss Film Award in Geneva,

    Bruno Ganz, Star of 'Downfall' and 'Wings of Desire,' Dies at 77

    Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor best known for dramatizing Adolf Hitler’s final days in 2004’s “Downfall,” has died. He was 77. Ganz died at his home in Zurich on Friday, his representatives told media outlets. The cause of death was reportedly colon cancer. In addition to delivering one of the definitive cinematic portrayals of Hitler, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content