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Solomon Kane (2009)
Director: Michael J. Bassett

review by J.C. Hartley

A deeply disappointing film made all the more so because it contains the germ of something half decent. Produced by European committee, and written and directed by Michael J. Bassett, who was responsible for the WWI horror Deathwatch, Solomon Kane struggles to find and maintain its tone.

Elizabethan privateer Captain Solomon Kane (James Purefoy, George And The Dragon), while combining piracy with his country's foreign policy, discovers that he is the prey of the supernatural devil's reaper. Escaping with his life, Kane renounces his violent ways to avoid alerting the reaper to his whereabouts.

Ejected from the monastery where he lives a life of prayer and contemplation, Kane ventures out into an England beset by plague, witchcraft, and the followers of Malachi (Jason Flemyng, Kick-Ass), a sorcerer raising an army recruited by a giant masked warrior.

Befriended by the Crowthorns, a family of puritans, Kane is unable to save them when his pacifism prevents him from fighting Malachi's soldiers. Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood) the daughter of his new friends is captured and Kane promises Meredith's dying father William (Pete Postlethwaite, Clash Of The Titans) that he will rescue her. William pledges that Solomon's soul will be saved if he succeeds.

Kane meets a priest (Mackenzie Crook) with a congregation of zombies, and later is crucified, before accepting the leadership of a group of freedom fighters, to storm Malachi's castle, which turns out to be his own childhood home...

The best section of this film is the period where Kane is forced to leave the monastery, throws in his lot with the Crowthorns, and their subsequent encounter with a witch. The wintry England, painted with a sombre palette, is perfect for the brooding tone surrounding Kane's past sins and the unlikelihood of his redemption. What spoils the film is the excessive gory violence, the uncertain presentation of the historical period, the rent-a-cockney heavies in Malachi's army, and the predictable plot arc.

A more serious tone, a little bit more research into the period's well-documented obsession with witchcraft, Elizabeth's successor James the First was a bestselling author on the subject after all, and the film could have been much more. As it stands it's more Van Helsing than Hellboy. Sword and sorcery or costume horror the film can't decide and suffers because of it.

The performances are fine, although James Purefoy seems to be channelling Hugh Jackman, and the final scene is almost a straight lift from the dire Van Helsing. Max von Sydow, as part of his cameo conquest of Hollywood, puts in a shift as Kane's father.

Solomon Kane poster

James Purefoy as Solomon Kane



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