Solomon Kane (UK 2009)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 4/16/11
Director: Michael Bassett
Producer: Samuel Hadida
Music: Klaus Badelt
Cast: James Purefoy, Pete Postlethwaite, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Alice Krige, Max Von Sydow

Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane finally makes it to the big screen in this exciting fantasy action pic that combines "Conan The Barbarian" (1981) and "Willow" (1988), with the B-movie charm of "Fist Of The North Star" (1995). Solomon Kane (James Purefoy doing his best Hugh Jackman impersonation) is a bad man. He's a pirate, a soldier of fortune, and a general scourge. When Satan comes to claim his soul, he manages to fight back and escape to a sanctuary of God, where he renounces his evil past and becomes a man of peace. But we all know that won't last, and soon he's back on the road to hell again. All he needed was the proper motivation, and the dying words of a friend bind him to a promise to rescue a young woman (Rachel Hurd-Wood) from an evil sorcerer named Malachi.

The film definitely has the look and feel of Samuel Hadida's other projects, and you see a lot of the same people working on this film. The cinematography and lighting are superb, and the film looks fabulous. The compositions and sweeping gestures reminded me a lot of Christophe Gans, who is one of my favorite genre directors. For the most part, the visual effects are quite good, and the bad ones happen very early on in the film. Klaus Badelt's epic music score is bold and wonderful, perfectly matching the visual tone of the film. Michael Bassett's direction is right on the mark, and I appreciate his no-nonsense and very adult treatment of the material. He's currently working on "Silent Hill: Revelations," which I now believe is in good hands. Where the film suffers most is in its pacing, and it takes a good thirty minutes for the film to gel and find its footing. Those first awkward steps attempt to flesh out Kane's character and explore his history, but it feels loose and aimless. However, once he finds his calling, the film kicks into high gear and stays there.

The story was written by Bassett based on Howard's writings, so fans of the original material may be disappointed. Taken on its own merits, I thought "Solomon Kane" was a fantastic film about a doomed man seeking redemption, with great action and a well realized fantasy setting. The pacing and dialog drag it down in places and it also suffers from genre clichés, but overall I found it quite enjoyable.