It's been a long time since people commonly remarked that a movie "looked Canadian," but there's no getting around that descriptive in the moribund Samuel L. Jackson "thriller" The Samaritan.
And I'm not just talking about the fact that when a street-hood high-roller wants to throw down, he pulls out a roll of Canadian twenties (what can I tell you, it's all about the "Elizabeths").
What really distinguishes The Samaritan (if that word can be used) is the room temperature pacing and mopey mood that seems to be the fallback of so many Canadian movies (to say nothing of what sounds like a moody lightly-techno soft-core porn soundtrack). As for the script, it seems to have actually been vetted with an eye to removing any half-clever line of dialogue.
It seems impossible that Jackson could go through an entire movie without ever raising his voice, but here he is. Clearly, director David Weaver shot him full of elephant tranquilizers before every shot.
That's despite the fact that The Samaritan's plot is rife with lurid contrivances (one of them brazenly stolen from the transcendant Korean psychodrama Oldboy) that should move things along with sickening force.
But things begin calmly, and pretty much stay that way, with the release from prison of Foley (Jackson), a lifelong grifter, who's served 25 years for the murder of his partner.
Awaiting his release is Ethan (Luke Kirby), his partner's cokehead son, who's apparently willing to let bygones by bygones if Foley will merely take part in a con (the mark is a British gangster played by Tom Wilkinson with unconvincing viciousness, as if reading from a file-card in his head).
Foley tries to stay out of trouble, while falling for a young prostitute named Iris (Ruth Negga), who is on Ethan's payroll, and so on.
And oh yeah, there's an unmentionable twist to their relationship.
The con, when Foley is finally cajoled into taking part, is never very well explained and goes wrong so quickly it doesn't really matter. Most of the movie takes place with people sitting -- usually at a bar, where Gil Bellows dispenses amber-coloured water along with laconic advice to Foley.
The action, such as it is, consists of clunkily-cut sporadic gunplay, the kind you'd see in a spoof of old gangster movies or in Guy Maddin's Keyhole, and which, during the movie's ostensible climax, elicited laughter in what was left of the audience at the public screening I attended.
Laughter, at least, is an emotional reaction. Would that any other part of The Samaritan had been that involving.