Welcome to Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten or unknown film and TV credits.
This week we take a look at the ever-so-iconic Samuel L. Jackson, a certified Hollywood megastar with a tendency to never stop working and say “motherfucker” like he owns the phrase. Whether it’s his regular appearances and starring roles in tent pole blockbusters like the Marvel movies, to his frequent collaborations with Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee, and even featuring in movies that float under the radar undiscovered, Jackson’s list of credits is one of the most fascinating in the history of American cinema. But this feature is all about finding the overlooked gems, so the team at TNC have ventured deep into the annals of his filmography to pick out some overlooked entries. Enjoy.
The Samaritan (2012)
It’s difficult to get past the subject matter of The Samaritan to figure out if it’s a good movie. David Weaver’s direction is stylish and I’m a sucker for colored filters but there’s a reveal that clouds over the production and makes attempts to discuss it without the reveal a moot point.
Hollywood has never been subtle about its preference for casting younger actresses to be the wives of men who could be their fathers. The Samaritan looks ready to fall into that camp, with Oscar nominated actress, Ruth Negga, playing the girlfriend, Iris, of Samuel L. Jackson’s Foley. Except Hollywood isn’t content to leave it at ageism this time and makes Iris the daughter Foley never knew he had. In order to prevent her from finding out the truth, he agrees to go back into grifting, if it will secure the silence of his dead partner’s son, Ethan (Luke Kirby). Meanwhile Ethan pushed for the incestuous affair in the first place. Desperate times call for desperate sources for blackmail, am I right?
Knowing Iris has attempted suicide before, Foley fears that this information could send her over the edge, but in the meantime he doesn’t consider that deserting her out of nowhere? That might be equally crippling. All of his actions after finding out they’re related are dubious because telling her the truth is a recognizable alternative.
Where a lot of Jackson’s roles can be cool, loud, and capitalize on his talent for grilling tirades, Foley is a much more quiet and controlled character. Recently out of prison for killing his partner (hence Ethan’s drive to destroy him), there are moments where the dangerous, talking Jackson comes out but they’re reserved for scenes, like threatening a guy with waiting for him to bleed out.
Fans of the TV show, Slings & Arrows, will spot two alumni, and Deborah Kara Unger makes the most out of a short, noirish part where her face says nothing while her voice does verbal gymnastics, but no effort is made into designing the grift. There’s a ‘getting ready’ montage that includes Jackson reading a book. The film’s portrayal of drug addiction makes you think, and other times angry. And when Iris does show up again, her actions (once we realize she may no longer be in the dark about what’s going on) are confusing. The Samaritan should be worse than it is but I wouldn’t watch it again.
Verdict: Better Left Buried
Big Game (2014)
Big Game is the type of action movie we just don’t see enough of these days: one where it’s up to a kid to save the day, but not in a way that’s made to pander to the sensibilities of children. You could watch this with your grandchildren if you’re an old, worn out has been with your best years behind you, much like I am. Plus, everything about Jalmari Helander’s Big Game screams ‘90s action movie , even though it’s a product of the 21st century.
The story is simple: the U.S. president (Samuel L. Jackson) must rely on a 13-year-old boy (Onni Tommila) to keep him alive after Air Force One is shot down over Finland as part of a psychopath’s plot to hunt and kill him. What ensues is an implausible, survival adventure in a forest.
Like Helander’s previous movie, the vastly underrated seasonal horror treat Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, Big Game is charming and fun, enhanced by the edge factor of thrusting an adolescent character into a dangerous situation and having him handle it head on. I miss the days of kids adventure movies where said adventure actually contained some threatening danger and challenge to overcome, and Big Game has that in abundance. I also love the idea of the Commander-in-chief being treated like a prize winning hunt. I don’t agree with hunting, personally, but I do love movies where human beings are the prey.
Another great aspect of Big Game is that it feels very European. While it probably was intended to be the director’s crossover to bigger and better things in the bright lights of Hollywood, it doesn’t feel like an American movie. It’s also a prime example of Jackson taking on such random projects, which make up many of the overlooked gems in his filmography.
This isn’t just a Buried Treasure, it’s the damn jackpot.
Verdict: Buried Treasure
Lakeview Terrace (2008)
Lakeview Terrace is one of the only movies I’ve ever watched in my life where I’ve felt genuine loathing for the villain – and it made me so happy. That’s how good Sam’s performance is here – he made me hate the bad guy for a change, which ultimately led to me loving him more in some twisted way. There’s nothing I appreciate more than an actor who can play a terrible bastard with such conviction, and Jackson’s performance in this movie is incredible due to his ability to revel in the awful traits of his character.
The story revolves around a happy mixed race couple (played by Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) who move to a nice neighbourhood to live happily ever. Now, I didn’t mention the mixed race part for no reason – who cares about that stuff? Well, their neighbour does, played by Mr. Jackson. His character is a police officer, and he spends the movie tormenting the young couple just because he takes offense to them and there’s nothing they can do about it. It starts off menacing and gradually escalates to the point of sheer terror.
Lakeview Terrace works because of its simplicity, and it hits familiar beats with great effect. Our protagonists are genuinely likeable and don’t deserve their treatment, while Jackson is just a bastard hell-bent on ruining their lives. Rife with racial tensions and themes of police brutality, it’s also a sad reminder that in 2017, the world is experiencing such atrocities in real life.
Overall, Lakeview Terrace isn’t a pleasant cinematic experience, but it’s an exhilarating ride from start to finish.
Verdict: Buried Treasure
The Caveman’s Valentine (2001)
By Adam Thomas
How does one go about describing a movie like the Caveman’s Valentine? It would be unfair to call it simply a drama or refer to it as a murder mystery. While it definitely has the components, I believe the best words for it are a hallucinogen-induced odyssey into the depths of a tortured and lost mind. Jackson shines here as Romulus, a once brilliant composer and now homeless man living in a makeshift cave in New York’s Central Park. Romulus believes that there is an all-controlling tyrant of a man living atop the Chrysler building and that he is responsible for his current mental state and also the death of his wife. When Romulus awakes one cold morning to find the body of a nude young man in a tree not far from his house, he believes he has to set out to solve the mystery for a shot at redemption with his daughter and to prove that genuine evil does indeed, exist. Surrounded by a cast of mainly character actors, Jackson annihilates the scenery with a sometimes quiet and disarming and other times chaotic and over-the-top performance. He gives it everything he’s got and doesn’t hold back a thing. He makes choices that seem like they might have been a mistake but when the character is looked at as a whole, make complete sense and you wouldn’t want changed for a thing.
Fans of arthouse style cinema will more than certainly find something appealing here. The film plays with a loose narrative style, splicing in what may be flashbacks or could just be delusions created by a vexed mind. Wonderfully shot and edited, stylistically there isn’t much left to be desired. Muted colors sometimes give way to bright, almost saturating autumn colors to create an almost dream-like feel to the preceding events. Harsh blues and grays paint the everyday life of Romulus, creating a drab and depressing world that one can only be inspired to sympathize with him and feel his plight.
There isn’t much I would change about this movie, other than a gratuitous sex scene that actually seems to bring the film to a screeching halt and made me say, aloud, “What in the holy fuck?”. A competent mystery, and wonderful drama, a drug trip of a movie all cemented by an absolutely outstanding performance from Jackson. This performance may serve to remind you why Samuel L. Jackson is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and why he gets to do whatever the hell he wants, whenever the hell he wants.
Is this Buried Treasure or is it Better Left Buried? Well, I suppose that all depends on what kind of movie fan you are. If you avoid arthouse cinema, then I say keep it buried, but If you don’t mind a little pretension saddled with a truly missed but should be celebrated performance, than I would call it treasure for sure. So now, which type of fan are you?
Verdict: Buried Treasure