A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Samson is a biblical epic about the legendary Hebrew warrior with supernatural strength (Taylor James). It's chockful of bloody violence. Most of this comes in the form of fatal bludgeonings with the jawbone of a donkey. But there's also head-stomping, lots of stabbings, apparent internal organ-smashing, whipping, and eye-gouging with a hot blade. That, though, is the main issue; there's no strong language, and sexual content and drinking are minimal. It takes some departures from the Biblical version of Samson's story.
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What's the story?
In SAMSON, Old Testament hero Samson (Taylor James) is born under a prophecy that he'll protect the Israelites from the Philistines. His loving father (Rutger Hauer), mother (Lindsay Wagner), and brother (Greg Kriek) support him as he falls in love with a Philistine woman named Taren (Frances Sholto-Douglas). But super-mean Prince Rallah (Jackson Rathbone), who has daddy (Billy Zane) issues, can't leave well enough alone, and his interference leads to lots of fatal beatings -- mostly doled out by Samson. Later, Delilah (Caitlin Leahy), who's been hanging around the whole time and is deeply in love with Samson, inexplicably betrays him. Wrath and many more deaths ensue.
Is it any good?
This ain't your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather's Samson; it isn't even your not-very-good grandfather's Samson. This film plays fast and loose with the Biblical legend, attempting to clean up some of the unsavory bits but keep enough bludgeoning to make Mel Gibson proud. Samson definitely lives in a Passion of the Christ-y world of extreme violence captured by way of lush cinematography, while attempting to do things like make the villainous Delilah sympathetic and Samson himself less of a homicidal maniac. But he still kills about 4,000 people -- 1,000 with the jawbone of a donkey, and at least one with a stomp to the noggin. Other key changes to the story include Samson's relationship with Taren being a love match, rather than a mission, and the skipping of one of his homicidal sprees. Also, probably due to modern awareness of animal issues, Samson's "fire-fox" stratagem (where foxes were literally lit on fire) is foggily conveyed.
The movie's character development and dialogue are straight out of a neighborhood pageant. And the villains are so very, very evil, killing people just for the heck of it. And bulging their eyes a lot. At least Zane, as the king, seems to genuinely enjoy chewing scenery. His response to Samson's warning of God's wrath (paraphrased here) -- "Are you threatening me with ... the weather?" -- is a rare highlight. And it's a pleasure just to see Wagner and Hauer. But as the main villain, Rathbone tries too hard. You can't blame him, considering the material, but a few notches up to full-on camp might have better served. Alterations and omissions aside, the film feels like a typical, if extremely violent, cinematic reworking of an Old Testament tale, complete with a heavily Anglo (and Dutch, and South African) cast playing Middle Eastern characters, with accents all over the place. The movie could certainly have benefited from more Zane-iness, but the seriousness of the brutality, along with the portentous music, tells viewers the filmmakers were in deadly earnest.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Samson. Were you expecting this kind of content from a Biblical story? Does the violence in this film seem justified? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
What did you think of the changes made from the Bible story? Did you agree with them? Why do you think the filmmakers might have made those choices?
How does this story relate to you, or what truths about the world does it reveal to you, if any?
- In theaters: February 16, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: May 15, 2018
- Cast: Taylor James, Caitlin Leahy, Billy Zane
- Director: Bruce Macdonald
- Studio: Pure Flix Entertainment
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: History
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence and battle sequences
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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