Solomon Kane 2009
SOLOMON KANE: DARK, GRITTY AND BRUTAL… DON’T BRING THE KIDS
In 1982 Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian was brought to the screen by writer director John Milius. What we were given was a violent epic adventure worthy of the source material. I had known Conan only through comic books at the time so Imagine my glee seeing Conan realized on film for the first time. It was amazing to say the least. What John Milius achieved with his script and film is a testosterone filled adventure that is amazing considering the film was made in the early 80′s. Once again we have a writer director taking on Robert E. Howard material in the form of Michael J. Bassett. This time around it is Howard’s Solomon Kane. A character that resides in a time of swords and sorcery. In a time of kings, demons and brutality. Solomon Kane is a roguish killing machine that sports to two swords like a whirling dervish of death. If you were disappointed by the 2011 Conan remake then get a hold of 2009′s Soloman Kane and your faith will be renewed.
Solomon Kane opens as Solomon Kane and his men storm a castle. We are shown the killing machine that is Solomon Kane as he makes quick work of the castles defenses. Solomon Kane makes it to the castles throne room chamber where he is greeted by a creature that claims to be the devil’s reaper. This creature tells Kane that the devil has decided to claim his soul to pay for all his evil misdeeds. Solomon Kane has not been much of a straight arrow and it is time to pay the devil his due. Kane is determined to deny the devil his due and jumps out of a window into the ocean below.
Solomon Kane renounces his evil ways as we next find him hiding from the devil and his minions in a remote monastery. Kane’s body is covered in the scars of arcane religious protections mixed with scars of countless battle war wounds, evidence of his past misdeeds. A monastery leader comes to Kane and tells him that he has had visions in the form of dreams that tell that it is time for Kane to return to his home deal with what his destiny has in store for him. Kane is not happy with this announcement but obeys and leaves the monastery.
Solomon Kane now on foot walks the desolate roads alone heading towards his birth home. Along the way he encounters a violent, brutal and unforgiving world. His soul a target of the minions of evil in a world no stranger to violence. How long can Solomon Kane walk a path of peace and non violence. Lucky for us not long.
The first 45 minutes of the film is spent creating the origin story of Solomon Kane. The main plot is basically Kane making his way to his birth home. Through flashbacks we are given details of his childhood past. Along the the way Kane is taken in by a family that is heading west with the intention of traveling to the New World. The encounter with this family is what awakens the violence in Kane and gives the story its motivational drive. The daughter of the family, Merredith Crowthorn (Rachel Hurd-Wood) is taken as a slave by the sorcerer Malachi’s (Jason Flemyng) Overlord and the marauding minions he commands. Kane pomises the father of Meredith, William Crowthorn (Pete Postlethwaite), that he will do all he can to rescue Meredith. The remainder of the film is driven by this promise to save Meredith.
Much like the world of Conan, the world of Solomon Kane is a brutal place of sword and sorcery. Heads are lopped off and swords are driven into the flesh of the enemy with much frequency. This penchant for brutality is what sets the worlds of Robert E. Howard apart from your normal adventure. Luckily for us the films do not shy away from the blood and bone. I for one appreciate this adult approach on adventure. The kids are going to have to go elsewhere for their adventure fix.
Michael J. Bassett delivers a well paced and well constructed story that has a lot to offer. Yes the film is basically a road trip film and then a chase film as Kane chases after the stolen Meredith but Bassett cleverly fills in the gaps with flashbacks that gives the story some depth and expanse. Visually Bassett delivers dark and stunning landscapes and scenes that add a dark and brutal context the film.
James Purefoy gives a great performance as the title character. He has double duty as he must play a merciless rogue killing machine in the beginning of the film and then transition to a man of peace looking for redemption. Purefoy pulls it off without a problem, furthermore when he later in the film has to transition back to killing machine we are rooting for it so that the bad guys get what they deserve. The rest of the cast is equally good with maybe the exception of Jason Flemyng’s Malachi that felt a bit flat yet to be fair he wasn’t given much screen time to work with so his short comings may not be entirely his fault.
Solomon Kane’s promise to save Meredith, the daughter of William Crowthorn, from Malachi’s overlord makes up the driving force of the last two thirds of the film. This becomes the thrust of the narrative and effectively so. It also provides an opportunity for the redemption of Kane’s soul. These two details make for a great driver of the story’s narrative. It gives us a clear and effective reason to get behind the Kane character making the adventure all the more fun and thrilling.
Solomon Kane’s narrative marches forward like a machine leaving bloodied dead bodies in its wake. As it nears its end it reveals secrets and wraps up the story nicely bringing events from the beginning of the film full circle. This gives the film a nice satisfying finish in regards to the story. I say in regards to the story because the final confrontation with Malachi was a bit underwhelming but the film’s end and Kane’s journey still felt effectively resolved. The battle with Malachi’s Overlord was fun especially since it figures into the film’s overall story arc its just too bad that more effort wasn’t put into the final Malachi confrontation.
Solomon Kane is a pretty darn exciting film that delivers in story, action and brutality. Robert E. Howard’s brutal material is handled well without short changing the audience on the violence. A well balanced mix of action, adventure and fantasy is served up giving us a satisfying adventure and a great hero to root for in Solomon Kane. Brutal swordplay, witches, warlocks and debts owed to the devil himself, what more can you ask for. Get it line and get ready to have some fun.