Even the darkest soul can be redeemed.
Swift shot: Robert E. Howard wrote several novels, considered highly controversial for his time; he penned his most famous creation, Conan, a vehicle which quickly launched a certain former Austrian pencil-neck geek to super stardom. I read a few of the Conan books when I was in high school, and Conan the Barbarian (the original film) was one of my favorite as a growing boy. So, I was thrilled to review this film about another, lesser known Howard hero, Solomon Kane. Kane, it could be argued, was Howard seeking a moral compass within himself for his sins . . . writing such provocative, gore and sexually explicit material, I mean. And, in fact there is a smart little film starring Vincent D’Onofrio as Howard wherein he wrestles with society and himself, 1996′s The Whole Wide World. Solomon Kane is not really a thinking man’s film; though, it is more about slashing, stabbing, and sadly devoid of screwing. I miss the 80′s.
Solomon Kane is set in 1601 England, where the title character, played well enough by James Purefoy is trying to redeem himself for all the slaughtering and pillaging he did, in the name of the queen. And, when you first meet Kane, he is every bit as evil as the head bad guy . . . only he feels God has justified his actions. He is soon introduced to the Devil’s Reaper who informs him, with a pretty gnarly fire sword that, no, the Devil owns his soul and that he is damned. Hearing this actually shocks Kane, who retreats to sanctuary back in England and becomes a monk. Thing is, he just doesn’t belong there, so after a year, he is kindly asked to leave sanctuary and fend for himself to find his own destiny.
In a series of flashbacks we are shown that when he was a boy, he defied his father, Josiah Kane (Max Von Freakin’ Sydow) refusing to join the cloth. Instead he became a scoundrel, a pirate, as mentioned before. This little bit of exposition was nicely done, allowing a base for understanding his character’s motives enough to find some empathy for Kane.
While on the path to find his destiny, Kane runs across pilgrims, you know, the kind we draw around Thanksgiving, honest to God, Puritan pilgrims led by the paternal William Crowthorn (the late, great Pete Postlewaithe). They ask him to join them, but he refuses. See, Solomon figures as long as he doesn’t commit anymore violence, he’ll be fine, and he doesn’t want much company. Because, as anyone could see coming, he eventually has to lose the pacifist cloak and go back to swords, fists and even pirate pistols.
As he dons the dark cloak of violence once again, a fair maiden, Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood) needs rescuing. Anyone who reads Howard knew this was coming. I saw another minor plot twist coming from a mile away, but again, only because I pay attention and because I have read enough Howard to know what to expect, more or less. Still, the story kept me engaged enough to enjoy the film. But, really, the film is a violent, red and black portrait of gore set against the pilgrim’s journey and the European plague.
If you like your typical Conan the Barbarian style of film, you won’t be disappointed. There is plenty of gore, and I have to give credit to Klaus Badelt for trying to remind me of the Basil Poledouris days of yore with his scoring. I rather enjoyed Solomon Kane, but one thing I found a tad distracting was the weather. There was snow flowing by, or embers from fire, rain, and even blood hitting the camera a few times. I get that they wanted to immerse us, but Director Michael J. Bassett might have fared better with a lessor stroke in that regard. Overall though, Solomon Kane is probably one of these films that real action fans will flock to in droves.