The following contains spoilers for Samaritan, now available on Prime Video.
It’s safe to say, however extensive his filmography is, Sylvester Stallone’s most iconic figure in film was Rocky Balboa. Sure, you can argue for John Rambo, but that character doesn’t have the stamina, as seen with the Rocky films, which have now turned into a I believe franchise and a sprout Ivan Drago spin off. Simply put, fans love the story of the underdogs behind the Rocky character.
Interestingly, Stallone channeled the boxer a bit in his latest sci-fi movie, Samaritan, which led him to dive deeper into the comic book realm than his time as Judge Dredd or Marvel’s Starhawk. And as seen with a nostalgic montage, Samaritan he actually got a chance to give Rocky a different twist by making him a full-fledged superhero. However, he wasted that potential.
In Samaritan, Joe di Stallone befriended young Sam (Jason Walton), a kid from Granite City who turned off Joe was like Superman. Joe saved him from some thugs and would have realized that the man was indestructible, believing that Joe was a Samaritan, a 25-year-old hero who has retired. And since Sam didn’t have a father, he clung to the Samaritan mythology, wanting Joe to train him to deal with bullies.
It led to a rooftop sequence where they did some shadow boxing, playing the 16-year-old Walton who is actually a boxer in real life. But instead of diving into athletics and seeing Joe show Sam it’s about discipline and not just being a brawler, Samaritan Sam tried to suck Joe a punch. Sam sprained his hand hitting his new friend, with Joe then advising him to flee after doing it to the enemies, which he would later do.
However, while these moments were fun, they would have been more nuanced and multidimensional if Joe had trained Sam for a while on fighting. They could have analyzed how Sam stopped boxing after his father passed away, connecting with the sport and how he helps heal trauma. The same problem was faced, after all, with Rocky’s son Robert, and Adonis (Apollo’s son). But in Joe’s case, it would teach the boy how to survive in a city full of anarchy and murder, not just how to survive in the ring.
And seeing Joe with a distinct fighting style and protégé wouldn’t just have made a nod to Rocky, it would have made them more dynamic for when they would have to face the villain, Cyrus, who took on the role of Nemesis. This way, Joe would achieve something more memorable with Sam, connecting on a shared passion as they both healed old demons. And in the process, fans would see what Rocky could have been like with the powers while having Joe using other tools when he turned around and destroyed Cyrus’s gang to save the city.
See how Joe could have made Rocky a superhero in Samaritan, now available on Prime Video.