The Samaritan: Santa Barbara Film Review

A rock solid Samuel L. Jackson adeptly anchors the twists and turns of this noir crime thriller.

The grift is on in The Samaritan, a gritty serving of pulp fiction masterfully perpetrated by Samuel L. Jackson as a philosophical ex-con trying to buck the considerable odds by taking a shot at redemption.

Set in present-day Toronto despite its throwback flavor, and directed and co-written by David Weaver, the film may cover some familiar territory, but the ever dependable Jackson keeps it feeling unpredictably compelling.

Receiving its world premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, the dark thriller is being released later this year by IFC Films.

Jackson plays it emotionally close to the vest as the mournful Foley, a con artist who has just completed a 25-year prison sentence for killing his partner in crime.

Determined to make a fresh start of things even though most of the people from his past are either dead or heading in that direction, Foley finds himself being forcefully dragged back into his old ways by his former associate’s headstrong, persuasive son (Luke Kirby).

Raising his personal stakes even higher is the presence of the enigmatic Iris (captivating Irish actress Ruth Negga), a troubled young woman with whom Foley forms a deep emotional bond.

Of course, this being a thriller about the art of the con (in grifting parlance, the “false good Samaritan” pretends to be coming to the aid of the intended victim) nothing proves to be quite what as seems.

While Weaver, who has worked extensively in Canadian television, and co-writer Elan Mastai, hit all the requisite marks, the script goes a little heavy on exposition, constantly reminding the audience about key details rather than giving them the satisfaction of connecting some of the dots themselves.

In the absence of a stronger stylistic imprint that often goes with the noir territory, the director keeps a sturdy grip on character, drawing a quietly commanding performance from Jackson and on-the-money turns from the rest of his cast of players, also including Tom Wilkinson as a brutally powerful businessman.

Venue: Santa Barbara International Film Festival (IFC Films)
Production companies: H20 Motion Pictures, Middle Child Films, Quickfire Films
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Luke Kirby, Ruth Negga, Tom Wilkinson
Director: David Weaver
Screenwriter: David Weaver, Elan Mastai
Executive producers: Eli Selden, Mark Musselman, James Atherton, Jan Pace, Lacia Kornylo, Samuel L. Jackson, David Weaver, Elan Mastai
Producers: Suzanne Cheriton, Tony Wosk, Mark Horowitz
Director of photography: Francois Dagenais
Production designer: Matthew Davies
Music: Todor Kobakov
Costume designer: Patrick Antosh
Editor: Geoff Ashenhurst
Not Rated, 90 minutes.