Good and Evil aren’t so simple

Good and Evil aren’t so simple August 30, 2022

Image: The Playlist

Taking a week off from our regularly-scheduled post going through Common Grace (you can read those here), I thought I’d include a few comments on Sylvester Stallone’s latest film Samaritan. I’m doing this in part because I haven’t decided what I think about the movie. Certainly it has interesting themes [and spoilers from here on out–you’ve been warned] and solid acting from the majority of the cast. But I think the writing could have used some work, as the characters are inconsistent and plotholes abound. And the twist, well, about fifteen minutes into the movie the wife said “I think [insert the twist here],” and sure enough fifty minutes later there it was.

Samaritan could have used a bit more polishing, to be sure. Fortunately, the film has its strengths too. For one, the acting is as solid as the script allows and each of the actors gets at least a small moment to show their chops. But the biggest strength of the film may be its theme. The explicitly stated theme is certainly a good one: we’re all both good and bad (echoes of Solzhenitsyn here). The arrival of someone with more physical power than others won’t solve any of our problems. Superheroes will just amplify our conflicts, because they’re mixtures of good and bad too. That of course is something every Christian can agree with–we’re all made in God’s image, and therefore good. But we’re all also fallen into sin and therefore bad. To deny either side of this is to deny human nature and ultimately to live with a skewed view of the world. Attempting to apply that skewed view on a large scale is one of the origins of many of the horrors of the last three centuries of human history.

That’s the heavy-handed theme that each character reflects (which means that it’s a good thing they had solid actors on the job–that kind of duality could have gone very wrong very quickly). The minor theme that notes some contemporary history is relevant as well. There is one remarkable scene where the villain jumps on the back of a tow truck to address a crowd in the poor side of town. He announces that he’s there to put the power and wealth back in the hands of the people where it belongs, and then proceeds to destroy what was presumably a small, locally-owned business in that same poor side of town. (At one point the lead comments “so much for punching up” only to be told that “you have to burn before you build”–and let me give you my official advice as a political scientist: build first.) Fortunately for us, this simplifies things: if you are destroying something that does not belong to you: in that moment you’re the bad guy. Regardless of how righteous your cause or how correct your ideology (or just how strongly you believe it), you’ve moved onto the wrong side by your actions. This isn’t the main theme of the movie, but it’s definitely there.

I realize that in this review I’ve not said much about the plot of the movie itself. That’s because it’s not all that well constructed and again has lots of issues that should have been worked out before being released into the world. Fortunately, these issues don’t completely keep the movie from being enjoyable–especially if you’ve got Prime and can watch it for free.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast an Amazon Associate (which is linked in this blog), and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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