A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
One difference between film noir and more straightforward crime pictures is that noir is more open to human flaws and likes to embed them in twisty plot lines. "The Samaritan" isn't a great noir, but it's true to the tradition and gives Samuel L. Jackson one of his best recent roles.
He plays Foley, a con man who was forced to kill his best friend and fellow grifter. He did 25 years in prison for murder, and as we meet him, he's just getting out on parole. He makes a promise to himself that he will never go behind bars again, and that means having nothing to do with crime in any form. He gets a job working construction.
It's not that easy. A man named Ethan (Luke Kirby) approaches him with an offer: An easy "Samaritan" con, which means the con man poses as a friend doing the mark a favor. Foley says no. Ethan continues to follow him, turning up everywhere. Foley tells him go to hell, using that anger beneath lowered brows that Jackson does so well.
The film takes place in Toronto, not a city often identified with noir, but then noir has no geographical requirements. Perhaps that accounts for the mid-Atlantic polish of a crime boss like Xavier (Tom Wilkinson), who has given Ethan a compelling reason to mastermind the con: He will kill him if he doesn't.