Javon "Wanna" Walton (left) as Sam Cleary and Sylvester Stallone...

Javon "Wanna" Walton (left) as Sam Cleary and Sylvester Stallone (right) as Joe Smith in "Samaritan."

Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

MOVIE "Samaritan"

WHERE Streaming on Prime Video

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Sylvester Stallone stars in the movie "Samaritan" as a onetime superhero who abandoned that whole scene years before the story begins.

The erstwhile Samaritan, whose battles with his twin brother and nemesis named, uh, Nemesis, were long ago put to rest, now spends his days anonymously working in trash collection and otherwise mostly drifting around a classic comic book urban hellscape. 

That existence becomes disrupted thanks to a neighbor in the metropolis of Granite City — 13-year-old Sam Cleary (Javon Walton, so good as Ashtray on "Euphoria"), who becomes convinced that this crotchety, absurdly muscular man calling himself Joe Smith is that superhero of yore.

Sam has a tendency to ignore the pleadings of his mother Tiffany (Dascha Polanco) and to hang around some sketchy characters, none more so than the maniacal Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), who dreams of upholding the legacy of Nemesis and wreaking havoc on the city.

You know the drill: It's only a matter of time before Joe's increasingly soft spot for his young buddy, combined with Sam's knack for getting into hairy situations, spurs him to dust off his hero tools.

"Samaritan" is directed by Julius Avery (the 2018 World War II-set horror picture "Overlord") and streaming on Prime Video.

MY SAY In so many ways, this is a deeply silly movie that offers cut-rate superhero fare along with a riff on Stallone's on-screen persona.

That's true in everything from the cheap villain that plays like someone's bad impression of Bane from the Batman universe, to the Samaritan versus Nemesis back story that's delivered in rushed narration over hazily drawn graphic novel-style animation during the opening credits. Good luck making any sense of it without rewinding.

It extends to the one-liners that sometimes pass as dialogue for Stallone: "Fly!" he exclaims before throwing a bad guy many feet through the air and denting a car. Please, contain your laughter. These quips were always more of Arnold Schwarzenegger's thing, anyway.

Sometimes the writing surprises: "I'm a troglodyte," Stallone mutters to the kid at another point, before explaining what that word means as you rub your eyes in disbelief.

Let's also not forget a seriously desperate scene where Joe/Samaritan essentially morphs into Rocky Balboa, giving Sam a rooftop boxing lesson.

Yet somehow all these strange pieces add up to a movie that's watchable, if totally inessential.

Avery constructs a strong sense of place in the gritty if familiar comic book movie specter of a city overrun by anarchists. There's plenty of mileage in the basic premise of a washed-up hero begrudgingly returning to battle. Stallone's range might be very limited, in general, but he's certainly capable of hitting that mark well.

There's more care and attention applied here than one might assume, particularly when considering the movie in the context of a lot of the late Stallone career efforts that play more like someone's tax write-off than anything.

It's just that only so much can be done with a story built around a half-formed mythology and such a clear imitation of better superhero movies.

BOTTOM LINE Well, it could have been worse.

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