Solomon Kane
Three Stars (out of five). 2009. Released by Anchor Bay. Running time 104 minutes. Rated R for gore and violence. Not for children. This DVD is equipped with Closed captions and English Subtitles for the deaf. DVD has a commentary and behind the scenes documentaries. This was reviewed on DVD on April 26, 2014.

Conan the Barbarian wasn’t Robert E. Howard’s only literary creation. He also sired a second heroic warrior by the name of Solomon Kane. Kane’s stories took place in the late 16th/early 17th centuries, and he’s depicted by Howard as being a tall, somber man clad all in black, who’s sworn to defeat evil in whatever shape it takes. Although he strode through a far different time than that of Conan, Kane was cut of the same cloth, so to speak. In 2009, a film was made featuring Howard’s lesser known hero, starring James Purefoy (The Following) as the title character. Being an origin film, we first meet Solomon Kane as a ship’s captain who’s leading his men through a bloody assault on a North African castle.

It’s when the ruthless, merciless Kane runs into a demonic presence that tries to take his soul to hell that he realizes he was just having way too much fun. So he goes into rehab--which, for a guy like him in this time, meant joining a group of monks. But when the head monk decides to kick him out ("thanks for donating all your wealth to us, Sol, now sod off…."), Kane becomes a wandering pilgrim who’s taken in by the traveling Crowthorn family, who’re on their way to America to help screw up that nascent society with their narrow-minded Puritan views…um, I mean they’re on their way to America to make a new life for themselves.

But Kane and the Crowthorns run afoul of a group of black-eyed zombies who worship a sorcerer known as Malachi (Jason Flemying), who looks like a reject from a Conan movie crossed with a death metal singer. Purefoy is actually very good as Kane; his earnest performance works very well, and goes a long way to selling the concept of an Europe that’s stricken by real magic and witchcraft. The production design gives us a suitably grimy world that’s just barely emerging from the dark ages, only to be threatened with a new dark age of sorcery. And the performances, featuring the late, great Pete Postlethwaite (The Town), Max Von Sydow (Robin Hood) and Rachel Hurd-Wood (Peter Pan) are all very good.

Aside from Flemying, who tries hard, but really isn’t a very menacing villain, Solomon Kane also stumbles by having its hero crucified in a heavy-handed scene that feels like a warmed-over version of the ’tree of pain’ sequence in John Milius’ Conan The Barbarian. It’s failed moments like this, along with having Kane continually second guessing himself, that constantly stalls the movie, preventing it from building the exhilarating momentum that it really needs to fly. Still, despite its flaws, Solomon Kane earns points for certainly being a different film--a high adventure supernatural epic with religious overtones. Fans of Howard might want to consider giving it a shot. --SF

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Solomon Kane