$4.00 ticket on a scale of $0 to $13.75
“Solomon Kane” is an odd movie. The 2009 French production took three years from its completion to be released in the US. It went video-on-demand on 24 August 2012 and goes into limited theatrical release on 28 September 2012. It has made the rounds of the rest of the world before coming to America (apologies to Eddie Murphy).
There is a good reason for this. With a budget estimated at $45 million, pic depends primarily on special effects despite having two top-tier thesps, James Purefoy and Max von Sydow (as his dad) in the cast. They deserve better. Your critic hopes their paychecks were huge. The special effects money could have been better been spent on the screenplay.
Plot is a predictable mishmash. This action-adventure, paranormal, period-piece, is set at the end of the reign of Elizabeth I in England — That is to say 400 years ago. Solomon Kane (Purefoy), sometimes called “Simon,” is a bit of a pirate, soldier of fortune, sailor, and cold-blooded killer, more or less in the service of Her Majesty — rather less than more.
The opening reel sets the stage well. The ruthless Kane and his band attack a North African castle where an enormous treasure lurks. Kane not only savors torturing his victims (he is a noted swordsman and a good shot) but also executes his own cadres on the slightest provocation. He is a bad guy.
Eventually finding the treasure, Kane encounters some weird looking bats who pop out of mirrors (did I say this was silly?) and seize his comrades. Eventually the bats morph into some sort of demon who has on call the Devil’s Reaper ( Ian Whyte). Said reaper is mostly special effects.
Solomon is told that his soul now belongs to the Devil due to his bad behavior. He takes exception to this fate and within a year finds refuge in an English monastery in an attempt to expiate his sins. Redemption, however, is no easy trick in 1601. Following a dream, elderly abbot Robert Russell kicks Solomon out of the monastery and sends him into harm’s way despite Solomon’s vow to renounce violence. In doing so the abbot utters prophetic words that the path to redemption is not always peaceful. At this point, auds have figured out the rest of the plot, unless they slept through the first two reels.
Michael J. Bassett gets director Director / Writer blame and Robert E. Howard gets blame for writing the Solomon Kane character. What a way to make a living! Klaus Badelt’s score is over the top. Lensing by Dan Laustsen contributes not to a suspension of disbelief. Ricky Eyres’ production design is just boring. And Andrew MacRitchie’s editing is at least comprehensible if nothing else.
Pic has one ingenious plot element, and it is by way of exposition. In his nightmares, the reformed Kane offers the back story about how he came to be the evil fellow he was. It seems that he was the disinherited second son of a nobleman (von Sydow) who, believing in primogeniture awarded his considerable estate to his eldest son. Solomon thinks that he accidentally killed bullying older brother while intervening in a rape. It is later revealed that older brother did not die, but was left comatose.
Father Josiah (von Sydow) invited a sorcerer named Malachy ( Jason Flemyng), an ex-priest who sold his soul to the Devil, to heal older bro. In healing him, Malachy made him the Devil’s disciple and turned him into a masked monster capable of black magic.
At this point, auds must be asking, “Why the heck doesn’t our boy just take a hike?” We are getting a tad ahead of ourselves.
Our boy Solomon, having encountered a Puritan family bound for America, realizes that he must take up the sword (and the pistol) again to redeem himself, despite having renounced violence. It seems that the Devil’s guys have kidnapped Meredith ( Rachel Hurd-Wood) and that her dad ( Pete Postlethwaite) has extracted from him in his dying breath a promise to rescue his daughter.
Along the way, our boy encounters a nut-job priest whose flock have become pod people and discovers that Malachy, the head bad guy, has taken over his dad’s castle.
Other than Solomon and Co. sneaking into said castle through the flood drains, rest of pic does not deserve comment.
Special effects are cheesy. Musical score often overwhelms dialogue, and for some strange reason, there is bad weather, snow and pouring rain, all over England all the time. If these guys were real, they may have appreciated a little global warming.
“Solomon Kane” is not quite film noire, it’s not quite a ghost story, but at least it is a conflict between good and evil. Unfortunately, it ends with a cop-out, a tip-of-the-hat to focus groups.
Pic is rated R. Your critic cannot imagine why. There is no sex. There is no bad language. There is a good deal of blood, however. Kids should go for that. Maybe it will amuse them for its 104 minute run time. It is no surprise that this turkey sat on the shelf for three years before making its way stateside.