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Archive for February 25th, 2010

Review: Solomon Kane

Redemption is a much used theme in movies and is often used by filmmakers as an excuse to justify huge amounts of otherwise gratuitous violence Solomon Kane is no different. The film begins with Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) working as an mercenary fighting in an unnamed battle in an unnamed North African country in the employ of Queen Elizabeth I. As he enters a throne room of a sacked castle to plunder it he is stopped by a daemon who is a servant of the devil intent on claiming his soul that has been damned following his bloodthirsty ways. After fleeing the daemon, in an attempt to save himself he renounces violence and converts to Puritanism. This goes well for a year while he is living in a monastery, on leavening things immediately go wrong as he encounters a puritan family bound for The New World (twenty years before the Mayflower). Together they travel west unknown to them they are heading into a heart of darkness as they approach a kingdom ruled by Malachi (Jason Flemyng) a priest and sorcerer in the employ of the Devil. Solomon decides to return to his killing ways to save Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood) the daughter of the family regardless of the consequences for his soul. Conveniently for Solomon and the plot he is informed that there are other ways of gaining redemption.

Based on a character that first appeared in 1920’s novels by pulp writer Robert E. Howard (best known as the creator of Conan), the idea of a movie has been kicking around for years. Interestingly it isn’t a Hollywood movie: a British, French and Czech production shot in England and the Czech Republic with a budget estimated at between $40 million and $45million It is far from a low budget movie but also a long way short of Hollywood’s’ biggest blockbusters, Clash of the Titans for example cost over four times more. It spends its money wisely with overt CGI only used in key (mainly climatic) scenes and an A list free cast. What it does have is fantastic production design, the seventeenth century looks suitably grimy with costumes from Witchfinder General (1968). There is something of a nod to Lord of the Rings with the black eyed army being reminiscent of the Orc’s, there is even a creature with a fiery centre like a Balrog. Some of the dialogue is beyond cheesy and James Purefoy’s embellished west country accent is obtrusive at best for a British viewer, I don’t know how it sounds to American audiences. The response of American audiences to the film (and not just Purefoy’s accent) is vital to the success of the movie. If the budget estimates are true it will need to do well in North America and/or Asia to make its money back. If successful it is planned as the first part of a trilogy, it certainly ends in a way to suggest they intend to follow it up. It can be done, Underworld (2003) was made for around $22million and took just shy of $100million and spawned two sequels that were also profitable.

Swords and sorcery is a tricky genre to get right, for every Conan the Barbarian there are a dozen Hawk the Slayer’s but generally Solomon Kane gets it right. It isn’t a great film, the plot is thin and doesn’t always make perfect sense but that doesn’t matter, it is a B movie (an expensive B movie but still a B movie) that is true to its pulp origins. As such being good fun to watch is far more important than being a great film and on the whole it is good fun despite some cringe worthy dialogue a a predictable plot.

Two Stars out of Five

 

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