“Samson” is a rather enjoyably bad (but still bad) Old Testament adaptation starring beefy Neanderthal Taylor James as the long-haired Israelite strongman who murders numerous Philistines with God’s approval before being undone by a duplicitous dame and a haircut. Taylor James gives a terrible performance as a guy who throws Styrofoam boulders at enemies and fights a puppet of a lion (in close-up), and the wigs and beards are comical. The movie’s budget must have been about a thousand dollars, and it’s all up there on the screen!
The Bible account is largely intact, embellished with a snotty Philistine prince, Rallah (Jackson Rathbone), to serve as antagonist, egged on by King Balek (Billy Zane), his soft, doughy father. (By doughy I specifically mean Marlon Brandoughy.) They both wear eyeliner, as do all the Philistines. The Philistine girl Samson wants to marry, unnamed in the book of Judges but here called Taren (Frances Sholto-Douglas), is the daughter of the king’s slave. The king allows the marriage in the hopes of getting Samson and his legendary strength on the Philistines’ side, but lo, he is in for disappointment on that front.
In this telling, Taren does not betray Samson by revealing the answer to the “riddle” he gave the Philistines. (It’s actually a question about the time Samson found honey inside a lion carcass, which only Samson was there for, making it more of an inside joke than a riddle, but whatever.) No, Samson and Taren’s love is pure and real, and the secret is overheard by Prince Rallah’s wife, a sultry gal by the name of … DELILAH (Caitlin Leahy)! She figures into the story later, too, of course, sent by Rallah to use her feminine wiles to entrap the good-hearted but dumb Samson.
I know I mentioned that Taylor James is a poor actor, but I need to mention it again. He may wield the jawbone of an ass with fierce, sweaty shirtlessness, but his delivery of all dialogue is hilariously, uniformly unconvincing. It’s further hindered by director Bruce Macdonald’s lack of panache, giving the intense moments the same flat emotion as the mundane ones.
It’s not much of a religious experience, either, if that’s what you’re after. Though Samson’s parents (Rutger Hauer and Lindsay Wagner) often mention his having been called of God to become judge of Israel, the only time he shows any spiritual devotion is when he calls upon the Lord for strength to do His bidding (i.e., killing). “Samson” isn’t about faith; it’s about a brawny tool who gets tricked a lot.
D+ (1 hr., 50 min.; )