By Phil Hall | January 12, 2007

Kimball Carr’s short “Samaritan” offers a “Twilight Zone”-worthy consideration of a convenience store hold-up with an otherworldly twist. The robber gets distracted from his crime by someone who appears to be a homeless man. But when the robber fires off his gun at the stranger, none of the bullets penetrate the stranger’s body. In fact, the police investigation of the crime scene is unable to locate any trace of the bullets.

The so-called Samaritan arrives at the police precinct to explain what happened, yet his answers seem elusive and even otherworldly. The detective investigating the crime then tries to visit the robber, who is locked in a hospital psychiatric ward – the experience immediately frayed his mind. What does it all mean? Could the Samaritan be a lot more angelic than the usual do-gooder?

“Samaritan” may have been more effective had the stranger’s modus operandi not been revealed until the very end of the film. It may have also been a mistake to have an actor of Johnny Alonso’s appearance as the seemingly angelic stranger. With a blissful expression and a voice recalling the dramatically hushed tones of Max Von Sydow’s Christ in “The Greatest Story Every Told,” the impact of his personality and mindframe isn’t particularly surprising (having an average Joe as the above-average hero could’ve been more remarkable).

Nonetheless, “Samaritan” is a well-written, crisply directed and handsomely produced effort (I especially liked the split-screen effects at the start of the film that brilliantly essayed the confusion and drama of the robbery). The production’s cinematography is also quite remarkable, and there’s a story to that: this is the first film made with the Panasonic AG-HVX-200 high-definition camera. The technology allowed for an amazing 81 set-ups in a two-night shoot, which is a miracle unto itself.

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