A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
We all have potential to be good or bad; it's up to people to make the right choice. Other positive messages are stated throughout, such as "People got to get rid of their own problems, or their problems will get rid of them."
Positive Role Models
Main characters -- a man in his 70s and a young teen -- come to the rescue of people in need. Teenage Sam makes some iffy choices (including actively deciding to steal), but he learns lessons.
Playing against Hollywood standards, an older man is a strong, tough superhero. A Latina woman is portrayed positively. Supporting characters are a variety of races and genders; some are positive characterizations, while others (e.g., gang members) are less so.
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Violence & Scariness
Heavy gun use from menacing characters. Frequent intense violence and peril, including being hit by a car and significant falls. Long fight sequences with punches, kicks, and knife attacks. Bombs and other large explosions. Beatings, bullying. A sad story about people dying in a fire. Kidnapping. Young teen frequently in peril.
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Profanity throughout includes "a--hole," "bitch," "p---y," "s--t," and one use of "f--k."
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Products & Purchases
Edy's ice cream is shown frequently. Beat-up GMC truck seen briefly, but logo is prominent.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Samaritan is a gritty superhero story produced by and starring Sylvester Stallone. It's definitely different from the Marvel and DC films many young audiences are used to. It feels more like the teen/tween-targeted version of Stallone's The Expendables, in that it's full of action violence like fiery explosions, heavy gunfire from assault weapons, and a character getting run over. Thirteen-year-old main character Sam (Javon "Wanna" Walton) is often in deep peril and takes a beating. There's also frequent swearing, including "s--t," "bitch," and one "f--k." The story explores what makes someone become a "bad guy" or a "good guy." Things get underway when Sam joins a gang to help his hardworking mother pay the bills, making the active choice to participate in theft. But the ultimate message is that everyone has the potential to be good or bad -- it's up to them to make the right choice. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
For kids, "bad" vs. "good" is often a very black-and-white issue (at least in the movies), but, in both story and quality, Samaritan is a superhero story that's saturated in gray. Most kids today don't know a media world without powered heroes. And while characters like Black Widow, the Scarlet Witch, Harley Quinn, and Deadpool have complicated pasts or fluctuate between doing right and wrong, there's also a glossy, commercial, even jokey packaging to them. Their otherworldliness can create a barrier to positive messaging. Samaritan overcomes this obstacle by introducing a kid character who's stepping into a criminal world with the best of intentions: to help his mother keep a roof over their head. This clearly isn't Gotham or Metropolis, where buildings are constantly destroyed without thought; Granite City is a realistic urban landscape. And garbage man Joe Smith (Stallone), who may or may not be the reclusive hero Samaritan, doesn't have the coiffed hair, shiny sheen, or slick costume that typically accompanies movie superheroes. All of those elements create better conditions for the movie's message to be received, understood, and acted upon: "Humans are all complex beings, and while we may not be able to do anything about our circumstances, we have control over who we are through the choices we make."
The movie's approach to making a superhero film feels different -- and even bold -- but some elements of the storytelling are jarringly inconsistent. With a 13-year-old hero, the movie's target audience would seem to be preteens. But there's a lot of profanity and frequent moments of intense violence, including members of a gang holding Sam down and hitting him with a wrench, and an explicit depiction of someone being hit by a car. This uncomfortable tonal mix may be the result of an odd writer-director pairing. Screenwriter Bragi F. Schut is best known for writing the animated Ninjago TV series: He has proven expertise in writing for children. But director Julius Avery is known for mature guns-and-aggression action movies. Having never made a film aimed at young viewers before, Avery may not have fully realized that, for kids, make-believe violence can help them cope with their fears, while realistic violence can create new ones.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.