Review: Solomon Kane stumbles, but still solid sword & sorcery cinema

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Solomon Kane - © 2012 RADiUS -TWCPulp author Robert E. Howard is widely regarded as the godfather of the sword & sorcery saga and everyone knows his most famous character, Conan the Barbarian, who has thrilled genre fans since his creation in 1932. But in 1928, four years before Howard envisioned the surly Cimmerian, he created another swashbuckling character who uses a rapier instead of a broadsword and who, unlike Conan, would never indulge in the “pleasures of women.”  His name is Solomon Kane.

The film is set in the 17th century and Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) is introduced as a young prince who is outcast from his father’s (Max von Sydow) kingdom. He grows-up to become a mercenary soldier fighting on the coast of Africa. He is ruthless and very good at the bad things he does and he takes no prisoners in pursuit of victories and the fruits of his battles. That is until he finds out that his sins have doomed his soul to the Devil and he narrowly escapes when the “Devil’s Reaper” shows up to collect.

Afterwards, Kane changes his evil ways and foregoes violence. He joins a monastery in an attempt save his lost soul and to protect himself from the Devil’s pursuit. Unfortunately, one of the monks has a dream where he sees that Kane’s path belongs elsewhere and the hero is cast out from the sanctuary.

Solomon Kane - © 2012 RADiUS -TWCKane then “walks the Earth like Caine in Kung Fu” and refuses to lift a hand to protect himself or others. He is beaten by thieves and left for dead until a wayward Puritan family finds him and nurses him back to health – and provide him with his trademark pilgrim clothes and buckled slouch hat.

The hero becomes close to the William Crowthorn (Pete Postlethwaite) family who saved him, but when they are attacked by a band of demonic raiders who are scourging the countryside, Kane refuses to fight and most of the family is murdered. In his dying breath, William makes Kane swear he will find Crowthorn’s daughter Meredith, who has been taken by the evil marauders.

Once he has been pushed too far and to honor his promise, Kane reverts to his old butt-kicking ways and unleashes his wrath on the possessed pillagers and their evil leader, Malachi (Jason Flemyng). The hero ends up being tasked with saving the girl, the villagers, his estranged father and trying to redeem his mortal soul.

Solomon Kane - © 2012 RADiUS -TWCSolomon Kane is burdened with a somewhat standard action plot – and dialogue with acting that sometimes stumbles – but this film still delivers on incredible sword & sorcery action. The fight sequences and choreography are fantastic and the film has a wonderful look and feel with very good special effects. Additionally, a lot of care went into the locations, set designs and beautiful cinematography of this movie.

I first saw footage from Solomon Kane at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con and I was very excited to see its theatrical release – then it disappeared. I’ve often wondered what happened to this movie and apparently it was released overseas where it reportedly did pretty well in that market. It’s far from perfect, but this really is a solid action movie and it’s great to see it finally get its U.S. debut – albeit in limited release.

Solomon Kane is infinitely better than last year’s Conan remake and this is a must-see for fans of Robert E. Howard and the sword & sorcery genre he fathered. The film is in limited release starting September 28, at Harkins Shea 14 in Scottsdale.  Grade: 6/10

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