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.