Samson (AUS - M/US - PG13) 

In a Word: Clunky



"Still, if not a brilliantly constructed film, it's solid Saturday matinee fodder, albeit cliched and at times downright cheesy."

Amid the flurry of faith-based films being released before Easter comes this "swords and sandals" adventure, something akin to the Bible meets Conan the Barbarian.

Sticking fairly closely to the Biblical account - found in several chapters in the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, the story centres on Samson (here played by Taylor James), a man dedicated to God since birth who has at times supernatural strength, provided he keep a 'Nazirite' vow which places a number of restrictions on him - including that he cannot drink wine or cut his hair.

Samson is a member of the Tribe of Dan in the Kingdom of Judah, currently under the subjugation of the Philistines led by the bloated King Barak (Billy Zane) and his serpentlike, faithless son Rallah (played with relish by Jackson Rathbone), who enjoys inflicting pain on the Hebrews (and anyone else who gets in his way) and who resents his father.

Samson, meanwhile, is expected to one day became a leader of his tribe. But he is reluctant to embrace his destiny, happy to simply help people when he can, and eventually he falls in love with a Philistine woman named Taren (Frances Sholto-Douglas) with whom he conducts what seems a courtship which wouldn't be out of place in a teen romance film.

Needless to say, things don't go well, and it's the subsequent tragedies he faces which eventually lead Samson to step into his role as leader. Things go well for a while until he meets Delilah (Caitlin Leahy), a woman who works for the prince and is sent to trap him. But here Delilah is a somewhat reluctant figure in this film - she didn't realise what the prince had in mind for Samson! - and there's a scene in which she throws away the silver she was paid for her betrayal of him (one of several allusions to the story of Christ in the film).

There's a few familiar faces here - among them - Rutger Hauer plays Samson's dad, Manoah, and Lindsay Wagner his apparently ageless mother, Zealphonis - and the action moves along at a fairly brisk pace - quite a lot is packed into those few chapters of the Bible!

While the acting is mostly passable (but watch out for some bad beards and wigs), the dialogue is fairly wooden and the special effects used to create the ancient world in which Samson lives not quite as sharp as what we're used to these days. Still, if not a brilliantly constructed film, it's solid Saturday matinee fodder, albeit cliched and at times downright cheesy.

In the end, Samson is a relatively straight-forward retelling of the Biblical story (there's not a lot of nuance here). It may even bring a wave of nostalgia for the swords and sandals epics of the past and their more modern derivatives.