Samuel L Jackson is best known for having smaller parts in enormously successful franchise films including Iron Man, Jurassic Park, and Star Wars. He may even have been one of the blue people in Avatar? Check IMDB.
He is less recognized for subtler performances like those given in Black Snake Moan, and Changing Lanes. His latest such issue is The Samaritan, a dark, smaller-budget film he produced using some of his Avenger play money.
It centers on his character, Foley who is ending a 25-year prison sentence for having murdered his best friend, and fellow conman. Although he is eager to make a clean start he can’t escape the past in the form of Ethan, his former partner's son, played by Luke Kirby. With a Joker like psychosis Ethan attempts to ensnare Jackson in one more grift.
As with any hustler film the fun is in trying to keep up as each character complicates the puzzle. Is the beautiful but delicate Iris (Ruth Negga) a pawn or a queen? Is Xavier, played by the always-formidable Tom Wilkinson the real mark, or is it Jackson?
Like the grift itself, the real trick isn’t assembling a great team, dreaming up a scam, and blindsiding your mark. It’s making a clean getaway – cinematically speaking. That is, creating a second act that unties the secrets of the first with one swift, logical and nonchalant tug of the director’s finger.
The film is not without some great secrets or suspense. Even the most cynical of filmgoers can expect a surprise or two. But where films like The Usual Suspect save their reveals for the final jaw dropping moments this film cuts them loose early. Its climactic purge is not intended to be expositional, but emotional.
In the end it is neither and The Samaritan leaves me feeling somewhat bamboozled.