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Solomon Kane

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

By

Solomon Kane
Cult icons have a tough time surviving in this new world of flashy comic book reboots and re-imaginings of popular figures like Spider-Man , Batman and other folks in tights. But for some reason, the classic pulp novels can’t find the same mainstream appeal when their only distribution seems to be campy (The Phantom) or reach auteurist heights in camp (Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy). We’ve reached a point where the pulp characters are overshadowed by comics--and that works out great for Solomon Kane.
Based on a one of the many rotating protagonists of the sci-fi fantasy magazine “Weird Tales,” Kane is an all-encompassing hunter of evil, focusing primarily on Satan and whatever version of which he has to slay. The film adaptation, which has been around internationally since 2009, follows the traditional origin arc with a lot of soul and sword swinging.

In the 1600s, Kane (James Purefoy) is the perfect medieval Han Solo: a dingy mercenary/captain, duel wielding his blades, loot castles and kill whoever he wants. When he leads his men to a castle off the coast of North Africa, things take a turn for the demonic when his crew are ambushed by a row of mirrors, with demons inside. It turns out Kane’s luck and greed are mainly due to an unknown deal with the Devil, and he’s sent a reaper to collect. Kane narrowly escapes and begins a long rehabilitation--complete with tattooing his entire body in symbols--to avoid losing his soul. He joins up with a family of Puritans on the way to America. While it seems like he’s finally found peace, it is quickly shattered after a brief run-in with a witch seems to prompt the Sorcerer Malachi (Jason Flemyng) to enter the fold. His horde, lead by the credited Overlord, find and kill the entire family except for Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood). Kane stumbles, but ultimately gathers his wits (and quite randomly at an Inn, his old crew) and sets out to save her once again.

Michael J. Bassett, director and writer, plays up the medieval tones from loud, angry sword clashes to most of the cast not having bathed in years. The tone can be tough, but Kane shares the same DNA as other tortured heroes like Batman and Spider-Man, but with a far greater spiritual connection that may be in name only -- it pays off in the visuals of Kane’s more demonic foes.

Malachi’s forces come from the Overlord branding an unlucky victim with his hands that morphs them all into a legion of bald, savage monsters. Max von Sydow appears for two brief moments as Josiah Kane to provide exposition for why Kane initially left and then why his father happens to be in Malachi’s dungeon. For all the screaming and sword fighting you could assume, Solomon Kane is rather light on it despite aping a concept from 2004’s Van Helsing or last year’s Season of the Witch. Purefoy is given a startling amount of time to brood and grimace as if he were trying to channel his inner Hugh Jackman but can’t quite get it. Yet put a sword (or two!) in his hands and it’s like watching his performance as Marc Antony from the Rome. He’s a strong, growling lead and clearly built to carry this film, but whether it wants to live as a drama or fantasy is a tough sell.

Solomon Kane isn’t trying to dumb itself down or sparkle slow-motion fights off the screen. It’s a solid quasi-fantasy story that doesn’t require overacting from Nicolas Cage or Universal’s brand of monsters. It simply needs a chance.
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  6. Solomon Kane - A Review of Michael J. Bassett's Solomon Kane

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