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The Samaritan (2012)
Opened: 05/18/2012 Limited
|Monica 4-Plex||05/18/2012 - 05/24/2012||7 days|
|IFC Center||05/18/2012 - 05/24/2012||7 days|
Trailer: Click for trailer
Rated: R for for strong violence, language, some sexuality and drug use.
After twenty-five years in prison, Foley (Samuel L. Jackson) is finished with the grifter's life. When he meets an elusive young woman named Iris (Ruth Negga), the possibility of a new start looks real. But his past is proving to be a stubborn companion: Ethan (Luke Kirby), the son of his former partner, has an ingenious plan and he wants Foley in. The harder Foley tries to escape his past, the tighter he is ensnared in Ethan's web of secrets, until it becomes all too clear to Foley that some wrongs can never be made right.
THE SAMARITAN is a neo noir thriller that will pump new blood into a familiar genre.
The thriller (in the Hitchcockian tradition) is perhaps the most purely cinematic of all genres, so it's not surprising that any director interested in stylish filmmaking would be drawn to it. It's predicated on shock and surprise -- and the idea that filmmakers make the movies they desperately want to see is absolutely true in my case.
The films that have particularly inspired me as a director over the years, such as Mona Lisa, The Crying Game, or later on, Sexy Beast and Memento, have had such a huge influence because they blended the conventions of the American genre film with a singular daring in their approach to their subject matter. I intend THE SAMARITAN to be firmly within that tradition. At the centre of the film are Foley and Ethan. A master grifter, Foley's world has always been built on a series of carefully crafted illusions that only he can see behind. Of course, it's an irresistible story idea to take such a character, have him decide to go straight, but then gradually reveal he's been trapped from the very beginning in a scam so devious that it's entirely beyond his imagining. Ethan, the son of Foley's former partner, is both very intelligent and deeply damaged, a man whose past has made him highly volatile. Driven by a base desire for money and haunted in unspoken ways by the loss of his father, only a character as complex and broken as Ethan would be able to ensnare Foley in a frame that even the master himself could never anticipate.
Both main characters have compelling, conflicting impulses that lead them to make desperate decisions. The central revelation of the film will simply be stunning for the audience -- much as was the case in The Crying Game. There is no doubt in my mind it will be as deeply shocking and yet as dramatically powerful as that plot twist was twenty or more years ago when Neil Jordan made his masterpiece.
In THE SAMARITAN, I will embrace an expressive visual style, the film will lead audiences into a world uniquely of its own making. The camera will move relentlessly -- reflecting the constantly shifting and uncertain perspectives of the story -- and the rhythm of the editing will become more and more jagged as the film rushes towards its shattering climax.
The audience will find themselves riveted as they watch Foley's desperate attempts to escape Ethan's lock and grip in what will be a thrilling, unpredictable descent into the darkness.
About the Development
The genesis of THE SAMARITAN began years ago in a Toronto cafe. Looking to create a new original project, long time collaborators David Weaver and Elan Mastai would often meet and bounce ideas off of each other. With a collegial sense of competition, Weaver and Mastai began the process by trying to see which one could come up with the most original plotline. Both lovers of the noir and crime films, they wanted to develop something that honoured the history of the genre while still bringing something fresh to the table.
Unlike other genre films, THE SAMARITAN deals with intense issues and reveals secrets that leave the audience agape. Dealing with the delicate nature of drafting these major twists proved to be the hardest part of the process. As writers, Weaver and Mastai wanted to ensure that the audience was constantly being fed while at the same time honoring the characters they were creating.
Once Weaver and Mastai finished the script, it went where many first drafts go: the bottom drawer of the writer's desk. It sat there until Weaver's wife and one of the producers on the film, Suzanne Cheriton, coaxed Weaver to revisit the story. By the third draft, Weaver and Mastai felt they had something special and it was time to snag a major movie star for the lead role of Foley.
Though Weaver and Mastai had always envisioned Samuel L. Jackson as Foley, they were skeptical about being able to get the script to him. As luck would have it, David's literary agent Geoff Brant plays golf with Jackson. Pitching a script on the golf course is something that only really happens in the movies... except this time it worked. In Samuel Jackson's words: "Geoff Brant and I play golf and he said 'I never do this but I have this script and it's so wonderful and I want you to read it. I'll promise you I won't ever do this again unless this is great'. He gave me the script and I read it and thought it was pretty great. So I called my manager, gave it to her and told her we have to find a way to get this done."
Weaver flew to LA to meet with Jackson and solidify Jackson's interest in the project. But in order to get it done, it meant looking for a major producer with a great track record. Enter Andras Hamori. Hamori and Jackson have a long standing relationship having worked together in the past (The 51st State). With a deep admiration for one another, Jackson knew that Hamori was the producer that would be able to get the film financed and off the ground. With Hamori's participation on the project, Jackson signed on as star of the movie and Executive Producer.
Once Hamori came on board, the 18 month process of putting the film together began. Securing talent that was capable of playing the thriller genre as well as dealing with deep emotional issues was the challenge that lay ahead. The role of Iris went to up and coming British actress Ruth Negga (Breakfast on Pluto, Colour Me Kubrick) who brings a beautiful sadness to her portrayal of an addict desperately trying to find her way; Canadian gem Luke Kirby (Take This Waltz, Stone Angel) signed on to play Ethan, the main villain of the story.
Second to scoring Jackson to play the lead role, Hamori was instrumental in landing Tom Wilkinson in the pivotal role of the Ethan's boss Xavier. The supporting role had enough meat to seduce an established, award winning actor to come to Toronto for a whirlwind three days. As Wilkinson puts it, "You read quite a few scripts and very few of them are ones that make you want to get into an airplane at 5 o'clock in the morning and travel half way across the world. This one did."
With a great script, a solid cast and under the creative eye of cinematographer Francois Dagenais, THE SAMARITAN was ready to roll on 30th March 2011.
About Making the Film
Shot entirely in Toronto, the film was completed in 5 weeks with Jackson in almost every scene. The intensity of the production was the perfect backdrop for the nature of the project. For director David Weaver the collaboration on set was vital. As he states, "There is just an intimacy to it that you might not find in some genre films. And I think that will be what makes the film really special, it's that you will really feel the connection between Foley and Iris, between Sam and Ruth's character. And even, in a twisted sort of way, between Sam's character and the character Luke Kirby plays. And so you have, sort of at the core of it, this crazy triangle of people who are coming from different places, have different needs and conflicting needs. And it's just explosive stuff so it's just amazing to have collaborators that you can feel like you can go into that territory with."
For Ruth Negga and Luke Kirby, the experience of being able to share intense and emotional scenes with one of Hollywood's biggest actors was a thrill. In return Jackson, a true actor's actor, beautifully described the experience of sharing the screen with the next generation: "I love working with them. They're (Negga and Kirby) wonderful young people that give me the opportunity to kind of stand there and watch them. I don't give them notes between shots. If they ask me a question, I'll say 'well, you did something very right there and you should keep flowing in that direction' because we have to inhabit these characters. We have to kind of create in ourselves or create a space for these people to live in, in terms of what our morality is, in terms of what our backgrounds are, in terms of what our goals are."
For both Weaver and producer Hamori, the most important part of making the film was that they were creating a film that they themselves as movie lovers would go and see in the theatre. "There's a story there that compels people and it's the kind of film that I would love myself as a movie goer," said Weaver. "And I think the only thing you as a director must do, if you're fortunate enough to get to direct films, is to try to make the films that you yourself would want to go to see. What really compels me to make films is that they're out there, they come along but they're infrequent and so you feel yourself like 'oh, this is a movie that I would see'. This is a movie that I would go to on a Friday or a Saturday night'. That's what sustains you through the long hours and the difficult moments and the endless time it takes to put a movie together."
For Hamori, the formula is quite simple: "This is a very commercial idea and we set out to make a commercial genre movie. We cast a major star, two beautiful, talented young actors and a villain who everyone will love to hate. We filmed in unusual, exciting, larger than life locations and hired a cinematographer who was able to bring them to life. This film is designed to entertain an audience, to tell a story and to take you into another world and have fun."