Solomon Kane

Courtesy of Davis Films

Solomon Kane from the outset provides us with hope that perhaps this could be the unsung independent hero movie of this year, verging a fusion of what seems like a mix of V for Vendetta with Lord of the Rings, but disappointingly unlike 2009 s brutal The Watchmen (a masterful example of comic adaptation), Michael J. Bassett s proposed epic falls quite flat on the comic store bargain bin floor. The protagonist Kane comes from Robert E. Howard s pulp-era comics The Weird Tales which later produced the likes of the infamous Conan the Barbarian. This adaptation however is ill-fated in that obviously some terrible decisions were made and are embarrassingly evident upon the screen, especially in the climax of the film as opposed to the ever so promising and exhilarating opening.

Solomon Kane is played by the increasingly brilliant James Purefoy of HBO s Rome in which he dominated both the screen and the series with his performance as Mark Antony. Kane represents Purefoy s first leading performance post- Rome, to a role that seems it was meant to be. Despite some severe problematic filmmaking, script-writing and acting throughout, the central performance delivered from Purefoy is mesmerizing and proves to be this features one major saving grace. The story couldn t be simpler, Kane an ex-mercenary is on the path of redemption after too much blood-shed and the devils promise to capture his soul, but due to some unforeseen events he is forced to doing what he does best- chopping people s heads off. If this adaptation and the casting of Purefoy were given to more capable hands such as Antoine Fuqua, Ridley Scott or Zack Snyder then perhaps this would have been a true masterpiece. However, this finished product only scraps as a bearable outing for hard-core comic book fans and teenagers looking for blood and guts without any psychological or allegorical infrastructures.

Michael J. Bassett had barely proven himself with 2002 s Deathwatch, and he is still to illustrate with a finished product his ability as a notable filmmaker. The real tragedy here is that there are moments of absolute genius, the opening sequence plunges the audience into a breath-taking first person view of an Elizabethan naval siege of a Spanish city. Instantly we are presented with a rich palette of savage colours reminiscent of Philip James de Loutherbourg s Defeat of the Spanish Armada (painted in 1796), similar to the effects of The Hurt Locker we are forced into the searing heat of the conflict, and this is then fused with an audacious mix of sorcery of the Tolkien kind, which never seems cheesy or unnecessary, if anything it relights that childhood infatuation with magic and the dark forces similar to 1988 s Willow.

The plight of the tortured soul on the path to enlightenment and salvation is communicated very convincingly with Purefoy s performance as is also the pockets of extreme medieval violence, when Purefoy becomes the Samurai of Somerset. The relationship of swordplay and sorcery are welcome in any medium, and there are some really impressive examples evident in the cinematography and production of this film. However this is dramatically over-shadowed by a terrible and predictable script, an embarrassing use of windows C.G.I and some despicable casting in The Office s Mackenzie Crook as a deranged priest & Lock Stock s Jason Flemyng as the evil sorcerer which is somewhat counter-balanced by some prudent casting with the ever- dependable Max Von Sydow & Pete Postlehwaite as Solomon s Father and friend, respectively.

To summarize, Kane will feed those of you who crave visceral plague infused blood-shed (there is one scene where Kane must use an axe again and again to fully sever a man s head) and for those of you who relish the mystical and fairytale darkness of the middle ages, but beware that although you will be entertained, you can t help but come away feeling that you could have done a better job yourself.

 

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