Review – Rocky With A Cape? (“Samaritan”)

Sly Stallone. He’s been a prizefighter, a Vietnam vet with PTSD, a hearing-impaired cop, a futuristic merciless judge, a ruthless assassin-for-hire, and even a dapper 40’s gangster, so it was about time he became a superhero, right? Right?!

Like a 1980’s throw-back movie, Sly stars as Joe Smith, an ex-superhero called Samaritan living in hiding somewhere in crime-infested Granite City, where it’s always raining, gloomy, or dark. In his glory days, some decades before, he was a beloved crime-fighter who had only had one nemesis, curiously named Nemesis, his evil twin brother (of course!). After a spectacular fight, Nemesis died, causing Samaritan to go into hiding and picking up a job as a garbage man and fixer-upper of junk. Living next door is super-fan thirteen-year-old Sam Cleary (Javon “Wanna” Walton), your typical kid who never goes to school, has a single mom who’s a nurse, and lives in a crummy apartment where they could be evicted any second.

Needing money, and not caring how he gets it, Sam gets involved with a ruthless street gang led by the crazed Cyrus (Pilou Asbaek, looking like Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys). But after Sam gets beaten up by some of Cyrus’ bullies, Joe steps in and reveals himself. Overjoyed he found Samaritan, Sam attaches himself to the ex-superhero, hoping to be his side-kick, but Joe is having none of it. Joe just wants to be left alone, be a “troglodyte”, and eat gallons of ice cream. Of course, everything changes when wacky Cyrus gets ahold of some EMP grenades and steals Nemesis’ mask and weapon, a super-sledgehammer! His plan? Pick up where Nemesis left off; black out the city and reign in pure anarchy! Bwahahaha!!

With Cyrus assuming the mantle of Nemesis, the city ready to explode, and fear gripping the people, what does Joe do? Yup, he decides to leave town! What changes his mind? Why, Cyrus kidnapping Sam, of course! That just tears it!! In a triumphant third-act battle, Joe goes ballistic and goes after Cyrus and his gang, where a twist is thrown out just for good measure. This screenplay was written by Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room), based on his series of graphic novels, but you’d swear it was by some nerdy 14-year-old doing internet fan fiction.

The entire movie, like some cheesy 80’s film, is loaded with ridiculous situations, dumb characters, laughably bad dialogue, and filled with every clichéd villain and generic character you can imagine. The only decent moments are when Stallone goes into superhero mode and beats people up, but unfortunately, that only happens a few times here and there and at the very end. In the meantime, Cyrus and his crew are stirring up the citizens of Granite City, who it seems, are pretty darn easy to turn to the dark side. LOL!

Director Julius Avery (Son of a Gun, Overlord) does what he can, but the material simply isn’t there. Stallone is very good here as the anti-superhero, giving a gruff performance and letting loose at the end. Walton isn’t bad, conveying that “every kid” persona without being annoying. . . that particular trait goes to Moises Arias as Reza. He just bugged me with his over-the-top mugging. Dascha Polanco has a nice role as Sam’s mom and Martin Starr does a nice turn as the book store owner/Samaritan author. Then there’s Asbaek as the sinister Cyrus, whom you may remember as Euron Greyjoy in Game of Thrones. He’s the only one looking like he’s having any fun here. With his crazy eyes and Joker-like unpredictable behavior, he’s actually a worthy villain. Too bad the rest of the movie didn’t follow suit.

**Now streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime

The Return of Captain Invincible (1983)

This is a perfect example of how not to make a movie. Directed by Phillipe Mora, whose history of truly bad films is well known (The Howling III, Communion, Pterodactyl Women From Beverly Hills), and with a shoestring budget that shows!

Captain Invincible (Alan Arkin) is a true-blue American hero, gallantly fighting crime in the 40’s & 50’s, but after facing the “Red Scare” in the 1950’s, he’s labeled a Communist and flees to Australia to become a drunken hermit. Fast-forward to the 80’s and his old nemesis, Mr. Midnight (Christopher Lee), is up to no good as he plans on conquering the real estate market (like Lex Luthor) in NYC by using his nefarious Hypno-Ray on prospective buyers! Oh no! Aussie detective Patty Patria (Kate Fitzpatrick, looking like Glenn Close) accidentally finds the drunken Captain and informs the POTUS (Michael Pate).

After first reluctantly saying NO to his country, Captain Invincible agrees to fight evil once again, starting with a slow and painful recovery period where he has to regain his three dormant superpowers: flight, mental computer abilities, and magnetism. Needless to say, it takes a while for them to come back, while Mr. Midnight and his rat-like companion, Julius (Scott Smith) continue to wreak havoc. Midnight and his cronies try to frame the Captain and his Aussie friend to better his chances, but nothing works. Finally, Captain Invincible flies to NYC and, after getting back to his own Fortress of Solitude (inside the head of the Statue of Liberty), he figures out where Midnight is and goes after him, saving the day!

A truly awful movie with terrible dialogue (and did I mention it’s also a musical?), yet it was written by Steven E. DeSouza who also wrote Commando, 48 Hours, Die Hard 2, The Flintstones, and many others. Of course, this was his first screenplay, so I guess it can be forgiven. The songs and dancing are instantly forgettable and are only there to piss you off as they add nothing to the movie. The acting is all over the map as many look completely lost or hamming it up, except for Lee who embraces this role like he was doing Shakespeare, bless his heart. I can’t even recommend renting/streaming this as it’s a complete waste of your time if you do. You have been warned! LOL!    

Tasty Trivia: James Coburn was this close to playing Captain Invincible, but turned it down at the last minute. Why? He had a huge problem with the “vacuum cleaner scene”, where sentient vacuum cleaners attack the Captain & Patty. It’s really dumb (which is about 90% of the movie!), so I have no idea why that particular scene gave Coburn problems. Arkin questioned that scene as well, but director Mora talked him into it. Go figure.   

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