Like most casualties of Noirland, Foley (Samuel L. Jackson) is pretty much DOA from the get-go. Haunted by the moment he put a bullet into his grifter partner’s head, he gets out of jail after a 25-year stretch to find his world mostly emptied of old friends, lovers, fellow thieves. Foley walks heavy, age and regret weighing down his scruffily bearded face. He dreams of resurrection, a new life, but the mean streets of Toronto—variously steeped in shades of strong urine and blue ice—eat away at what’s left of his soul the moment he predictably puts a foot wrong.
That’s the kind of tone and style Canadian director David Weaver aims for in his surprisingly engrossing The Samaritan. And noir is nothing if not style, even if in these visually illiterate days the term gets defined simply as generic plot elements. Weaver isn’t so much after genre—thriller, crime caper, grifter snares within snares—as the pleasure of moving, as slow as doom, through an almost subterranean cinematic medium, beautiful yet deadly in matters of hope or innocence.
The Samaritan is no Tarantino firecracker; its deliberate narrative pacing derails crucially in rushed climactic passages. But this chronicle of a damaged man’s long dying casts a genuinely noir spell, and gives Jackson the chance to show how interesting an actor he can be when not straitjacketed into rote action roles.