The Samaritan (David Weaver, 2012): Canada

Reviewed by Rosanna Lapinski. Viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Samaritan is a crime thriller about an ex-con named Foley (Samuel L. Jackson), who has just served 20 years for the murder of his best friend, a crime he was forced to commit. Foley is determined to go straight, but Ethan (Luke Kirby), the son of Foley’s former partner, wants Foley to run another con. Ethan brutally intrudes on all aspects of Foley’s life to force Foley to run the grift. Foley unexpectedly finds solace in the arms of a young woman, Iris (Ruth Negga), with whom he begins to imagine a new life.

As the film begins, Foley is instructed to execute the man cowering on his knees in front of him or be killed himself. The victim pleads with Foley as the shot rings out. With seemingly cold detachment, Foley has just executed his best friend, Ethan’s father.

Oscar nominated Tom Wilkinson (Mission Impossible 4) plays Xavier, a wheeler-dealer who is the “mark” of the grift. The climax of the film is the scene between Foley (Jackson) and Xavier (Wilkinson). These two veteran actors, known for playing extreme characters, have surprisingly never been in a movie together. It is their taut, forceful performances that deliver this film. The grift is staged in a half built mansion in an affluent section of town, a stark contrast to the dreary, shabby low rent apartments where Foley and Iris live. Iris has been recruited at the last minute as a replacement for Gretchen (Martha Burns) in the three-man grift.  Sheets of plastic hang from the house ceilings, providing a sinister, eerie glow to the scene. Jackson, in silhouette, explains the “Samaritan”: “The grift is not just about taking someone’s money, it’s about gaining their confidence. The key is to set up a situation where the mark knows he’s f***ing me over, but he gets to act like he’s doing me a favor. Like he’s running the grift. That’s why it’s called the “Samaritan.”

David Weaver directs this film, which was shot in Toronto and Rio de Janeiro.  The film successfully sets the noir mood with scenes shot in the bars and nightclubs and the dark, dimly lit streets of the criminal underworld.  Samaritan is produced by Andras Hamori from a screenplay by Weaver and Elan Mastai. Like Robert Towne’s classic, award-winning screenplay, Chinatown, this neo noir film effectively combines the classic noir elements of murder, incest, mystery, deception and suspense.

Unpredictable plot twists and convincing performances provide a suspenseful thriller that film noir enthusiasts are sure to enjoy.

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