WOh dear God. Pure Flix, the makers behind GOD’S NOT DEAD (2014), and Kirk Cameron’s SAVING CHRISTMAS (2014), wants to get in on the epic action scene… This is going to end well! Actually, to be fair, this movie looks amazingly bad and I’m sort of excited to see just how terrible it is.
As per usual, I need to put this disclaimer down. I am not a religious bloke. I never read the Bible and I know very little about the stories in them. More specifically, I do not know the story of Samson. The absolute closest thing I ever got to knowing the story is a Shirley Manson song that played during the first episode of season two of TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES (2008 – 2009). Shirley Manson, for those of you not up to snuff with your 90’s alternative rock, is the Scottish lead singer of the popular alternative rock band, Garbage. Fun fact, Manson was also a key character in season two of CONNOR CHRONICLES and wasn’t too shabby. But as interesting as that is compared to any Bible story, I should probably keep it in focus and talk about Samson. I’ll close off with the aforementioned song.
All I really know is… Samson fought a lion, something about his hair being cut, his strength is supernatural, he had a lover named Delilah who betrayed him and the Bible doesn’t say what happened to her, and he… died. I would say “spoiler alert,” but this is something you can look up on Wikipedia, and considering that this is a movie that is primarily for the religious, they likely already know the story.
The story presented here looks like it’s about Samson, who is a prophesized warrior of God (I think; the “living God” part is throwing me off). His strength seems to be something of a myth until forces are dispatched to verify the truth, only to have that rude awakening. Delilah looks like she’s sent in to find his weakness and everyone is out to test his strength.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Taylor James (JUSTICE LEAGUE , BLITZ , and MAMMA MIA! ), Caitlin Leahy (tons of short films), Billy Zane (ZOOLANDER 2 , BLOODRAYNE , TITANIC , BACK TO THE FUTURE , and upcoming films GHOSTS OF WAR  and LUCID ), and Rutger Hauer (VALERIAN , HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN , BATMAN BEGINS , and upcoming films THE SISTERS BROTHERS  and THE SONATA ).
Now for the crew. Co-directing, we have Bruce MacDonald (THE PERFECT WAVE ) and Gabriel Sabloff (unknown stuff), who is also co-editing. Penning the screenplay, we have a red flag, yet somehow unsurprising, four total writers: Jason Baumgardner (lots of shorts), Galen Gilbert (unknown stuff), Timothy Ratajczak (unknown stuff), and Zach Smith (THE NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR ). Composing the score is Will Musser, known for THE CASE FOR CHRIST (2017), GOD’S CLUB (2015), GOD’S NOT DEAD (2014), and the upcoming HURRY SCURRY (2018). Co-cinematographers are Trevor Michael Brown (THE PERFECT WAVE, THE SCORPION KING 4: QUEST FOR POWER , and BLUE CRUSH 2 ) and Brian Shanley (CASE FOR CHRIST, GOD’S NOT DEAD, CHRISTMAS WITH A CAPITAL C , and upcoming films GOD’S NOT DEAD: A LIGHT IN DARKNESS  and THE PRAYER BOX ). Finally, the film is edited by a staggering total of three editors; aside from Sabloff, we have Tim Goodwin (editorial debut) and Vance Null (CASE FOR CHRIST, GOD’S NOT DEAD 2 , and GOD’S NOT DEAD).
Overall, this is going to suck the big one, but it looks like it’s going to be a hoot and a half.
This is my honest opinion of: SAMSON
Set in the 1170s B.C. From birth, Samson (Taylor James) has been a promised hero and savior for the Hebrews, and so long as he doesn’t touch the dead, drink wine, or cut his hair, he’ll fulfill the prophecy. But that hasn’t been an easy path to follow, as he’s something of a troublemaker with his younger brother Caleb (Greg Kriek) who, with the help of his superhuman strength, steal from their Philistine rulers and give to their family and community. Eventually, he meets Taren (Frances Sholto-Douglas), a Philistine slave girl that he falls in love with and marries, despite the dishonor that it would bring to his people. But his reputation for having such strength is causing controversy within the royal walls of the Philistine palace, particularly the dismissive King Balek (Billy Zane) and his son, Prince Rallah (Jackson Rathbone), who sees Samson as a threat. After suffering a loss of his men at Samson’s hands, he kills Taren and Samson dismisses his role as a prophesized hero, just on the eve of Rallah taking his anger out on the rest of the Hebrew people.
I would rather pay fifteen dollars to hear Shirley Manson’s song on a loop.
As far as Pure Flix movies go, this isn’t the worst I’ve seen, or the most frustrating to sit through, but… no, it sucks. It sucks hard.
First, lets take a look at the poster of the film. Look at the tagline. “Chosen. Betrayed. Redeemed.” Is this going to become a trend? GOD’S CLUB (2015) did the same thing with their DVD cover, “They fought for the school Bible club and won.” Well… shit, I guess no one needs to see the movie after that. While certainly a heavier defender there than here, it’s still basically telling you the ending that Samson redeems himself. We don’t know what he did (and for that matter, you never really will), but we know it ends with some kind of triumph on Samson’s end.
But fine, this is nitpicking and looking for a fight in the smallest areas. How about some legit criticism?
Very little in this movie makes sense and likely only makes sense to those who read the Bible and or those who are well versed in the story of Samson, which is clearly not me. So, God demands that if Samson is to be blessed with his strength, he must never cut his hair, drink wine, or touch the dead.
This is never explained. Where would I even begin to ask questions? How would I even be able to ask? Does God have something against short hair? Why can’t he drink wine? Since when has the consumption of alcohol been a sin? You know what, don’t answer that. I’m sure there’s a passage somewhere that says that. But if that’s the case, then God must have a very long list of folks going to Hell for drinking. Why can’t he touch the dead? Uh… Samson is supposed to be a hero of his people, and while a hero can be defined as many different things, a fighter or pacifist, where does this rule apply? He’s clearly seen killing people via neck-breaks. That’s likely instant death, so… if he’s still holding the dead body, does that mean he broke his vows? And what about the “thirty tunics” bit? He killed all those Philistine soldiers and needed help with taking the tunics off the bodies, so… how did he do it without touching the dead bodies? We never see how this feat is accomplished. Does he have to touch the bare skin of a dead person for him to break his promise? Could he wear a pair of gloves and still be in the clear? The rules for his strength are nonsense. Maybe it’s explained in the Bible, but no movie should ever expect its audience to do homework or research beforehand to know how and why something is. Explain it in the movie, omit it entirely, or work around it in some way.
Is there anything redeeming about the project at all? Actually, there kind of is.
Any time Rathbone and Zane are on screen, the amount of cheese that suddenly exists is unquantifiable. Is that a word? I don’t care, the hammy acting of Rathbone and Zane is immune to your grammar correctness. In any case, Rathbone has about the corniest evil villain toothy smile I’ve ever seen outside of cartoon bad guys. It’s a sheer wonder why he doesn’t have a maniacal laugh. But he does have a posh laugh, so that’s a fun compromise. And Zane just looks like he’s not even caring. He’s just spouting some lines and getting a paycheck for it, and it’s kind of amazing. But if there’s anyone that seemed legitimately good, or at least better than the rest, was Leahy as Delilah. I felt like she was the only well-developed character with an inner struggle and had the closest thing to a compelling character arch.
Lets talk about that action scene. The very heavily marketed action scene where Samson is fighting off a horde of Philistine soldiers. It’s kind of boring. This scene loved to shake the camera and quick cut to punching and more punching, making for a head-ache inducing five to ten minutes. And it got old quickly because that’s all the action scene is. It even hit the action hero cliché of a bunch of soldiers dog-piling the hero only for him to summon the strength to scream, flex, and shockwave everyone off of him in slow-mo. Stupid, but amusing. But what I found hilariously worth noting was that by the end of this action scene, which we never see finished by the way, we see Samson standing triumphantly on a mound of bodies, which again, somehow doesn’t count as breaking his promise. Thing is, the bodies are strewn about for several yards. Uh… Samson was fighting all these soldiers in a pretty singular spot. At the very least, he wasn’t pushed back as far back as this movie wanted me to believe. The visual was more comical the any comic book movie I’ve seen since the early 2000’s era.
What’s I find interesting about this movie is that I can see how a story like this can be made well. There’s a previous adaptation, SAMSON AND DELILAH (1949), that looks like it was much better received. I’d probably say that movie is worth checking out more than this one, especially if certain character statuses are accurate to the Biblical story. I’m assuming the whole “poor Hebrew” thing was true for Samson, so if Delilah’s status as a wife or personal servant to the Prince, then I can see how the question of loyalty or love could make for a dramatic tale. Unfortunately, all we get is a melodramatic borderline superhero movie that’s fifteen years too late. It makes very little sense and is structured in such a way that it almost feels like two movies were awkwardly shoved together to make one. All in all, I neither like it, nor do I recommend this movie to the masses. The religious will likely already make the time, but for those even remotely curious, this is a hard pass. Not even as a rental, unless you want two hours of your life down the drain. If I had my way… I’d burn this whole movie down.
My honest rating for SAMSON: a weak 3/5