By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Pure Flix hasn’t garnered the best reputation among cinephiles, and has earned its standing pretty darn honest.
Samson, however, attempts to do something the studio hasn’t yet, but probably should have from the beginning- tell an actual Bible story, instead of either a political screed or a severely watered down version of a Hollywood genre film. Yes, it’s about that Samson, Hebrew strongman and Judge, scourge of the Philistines, and really terrible chooser of lovers.
I’m going to tell you something that may well floor you, but what puts Samson in the recommend column for me is its performances. Billy Zane is gold as the pithy king who just can’t suffer his fool of a son, Jackson Rathbone, who may not be the most nuanced character or actor in the world, but who is just the sneering villain he needs to be. Rutger Hauer is also in this, allegedly, which is always a good thing. It’s Taylor James as Samson, however, who turns in the best performance- a legitimately magnetizing one, despite his, ahem, distractingly orc-ed up appearance.
Taylor Lautner, what have they done to you????
The script is a pretty serviceable recounting of the Biblical tale without the kind of Evangelical proselytizing Pure Flix usually wedges into its dog and football movies. The action is not half bad, either, easily beating any of those Euroflicks Luc Besson keeps putting his name on, and the jawbone vs. a thousand Philistine fight sequence is legitimately awesome.
The rest of the production values are actually quite good, too, minus some cityscape CGI that certainly looks no worse than what Alex Proyas spent roughly a hundred million more to deliver with Gods of Egypt.
Which really could have used itself some Billy Zane, it turns out.
The brother (Greg Kriek) looks distractingly like someone else, and is distractingly blonde unlike Samson, and walks a weird line from comic relief sidekick to inspirational leader in the background of the story because somebody needs to deliver the final inspirational voiceover, I suppose.
Steve Zahn, what have they done to you????
While largely faithful to the Biblical story, there are some unfortunate detours from the source- why kind of shrug off Delilah’s three attempts to take Samson down, each cockily foiled by him until he finally cockily relents and then pays for what he should have easily seen coming? If anything, the movie Samson here is too mature compared to how he was portrayed in the Bible. And if you’re going to do that for dramatic weight, why show the character you just let off the hook get crushed in the temple? (Spoiler Alert for a story a couple thousand plus years old). It comes off unnecessarily callous- bad form.
Samson is a surprisingly solid attempt at one of the most cinematic of them all, even if it falters a tad in capturing one of the Bible’s most conflicted heroes.
Samson (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every strongman feat
Take a Drink: for every riddle
Take a Drink: every time Samson gets flirty
Take a Drink: whenever Jackson Rathbone delivers a perfect Disney villain sneer
Take a Drink: whenever Billy Zane eats scenery for dinner
Do a Shot: for each vow broken