Critics hate Sylvester Stallone's Prime Video movie Samaritan — but audiences disagree

Sylvester Stallone as Joe Smith/Samaritan, walking down the street, in Samaritan
(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Sylvester Stallone isn't exactly a critics darling, and neither is Samaritan, his latest film that just debuted on Prime Video. Arriving today (August 26), Samaritan finds Sly as a former superhero in hiding under the persona of garbage worker Joe Smith.

As usual, that secret identity doesn't last. Once a teen named Sam — played by Javon "Wanna" Walton, who some may know from Euphoria — realizes that his garbage guy is a former hero, the plot shifts to the kid trying to pressure his idol into getting back to work. 

Even though Samaritan just dropped today, it's already ranking highly on the Prime Video Top 10 in the U.S. chart (which tracks most-watched programming), at No. 4 (behind The Boys and above The Lost City). 

And to cap it all off? While critics can't stand Samaritan (as seen by its 33 percent Rotten Tomatoes score), it's already gained a glowing set of audience reviews. So, should you watch Samaritan? Let's find out the top reasons to skip or stream (if you skip, we have rounded up the 7 new movies and shows to watch this weekend on Netflix, Hulu and Prime Video).

Samaritan reviews: What critics think

While some critics are kinda positive, looking at Samaritan for what it is, others are fully rejecting it. Valerie Complex at Deadline writes that its "action scenes are serviceable," but "it takes about 45 minutes to get to them," and that "there are so many references to other things Samaritan never stands on its own." The movie's biggest flaw? "For all of its bleakness and themes of redemption and heroism, Samaritan lacks the depth to explore these concepts."

In her review at The New York Times, Amy Nicholson is spicy from the first line, calling Samaritan "a grouchy time-waster." Near the end of her three-paragraph review, Nicholson slams Samaritan by saying "Bragi F. Schut’s script mumbles its potentially intriguing themes: Do crumbling communities need a fighter or a figurehead? Do good and evil coexist inside us all? In lieu of embodying these questions, Stallone’s character, an apathetic, self-proclaimed troglodyte, glumly flattens a toaster with his bare hands." For The Seattle Times, Soren Anderson welcomes audiences to "the world of Low-rent Copycatland," highlighting how unoriginal Samaritan is.

A more positive review came from Variety's Owen Gleiberman, who notes Samaritan "builds to a very good twist, and Stallone, in his way, brings a vibe to it, complete with an ’80s kiss-off line (“Have a blast!”) delivered in a growl so deliberate it practically etches itself onto the scenery."

Samaritan audience reviews: What the people say

Interestingly, no user reviews are visible on Prime Video's own page for Samaritan. But over on Rotten Tomatoes, Samaritan already has an 83 percent audience score (with zero 'Verified Audience' reviews, I should add) based on more than 50 reviews. The recency of the film's release, combined with how brief some of the five-star reviews are, makes us doubt the veracity of some of these scores — this could be a situation that's the opposite of review bombing, where fans of Stallone are blindly showing their support.

All of the reviews came in in the early hours of Friday morning, such as David K's four-star review that says "Enjoyed the movie, liked the plot twist. Seeing an aging hero/ or whatever you want to call him, made the movie great. Wasn't just an all action movie by sly."

Sylvester Stallone as Joe Smith/Samaritan in Samaritan, looking closely at something

(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Brian R also gave Samaritan four stars and writes, "The big twist was easy to see I wondered it just from the previews. But it's Stallone doing what we love to see from him Creating a heroic charachter (sic) with super human will and in this case abilities, with very human qualities that we all can relate to. A good performance by the chast (sic) and a entertaining sequence of events. I enjoyed the movie!"

There is negative audience feedback, though, some of which came in right as the movie had hit Prime Video. J.A notes, "It barely held interest. Most of the acting was terrible. The plot twist was predictable from the beginning. The action was boring. The effects were sub par. The writing was basic. The characters were cardboard. Interesting idea, though. Too bad."

Outlook: Measure your expectations

So, critics think Samaritan's a bit too dry and uninspired, while some audience members appreciated the story and twist. Of course, Stallone's performance is beloved by his own fans, so your milage may vary on that one.

If you do decide to hit "play" on Samaritan tonight, do so with the understanding that you may soon hit "stop." It's clearly not for everyone, and those who aren't sure about it may realize it's not their speed immediately.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.