Combustible Celluloid
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With: James Purefoy, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Max von Sydow, Pete Postlethwaite, Alice Krige, Sam Roukin, Ian Whyte, Mackenzie Crook, Philip Winchester, Jason Flemyng
Written by: Michael J. Bassett, based on stories by Robert E. Howard
Directed by: Michael J. Bassett
MPAA Rating: R for violence throughout
Running Time: 104
Date: 09/16/2009

Solomon Kane (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Of the various feature films based on the work of pulp writer Robert E. Howard, Solomon Kane is arguably the best of them, and easily in league with Conan the Barbarian (1982). Unlike the others, director Michael J. Bassett seems to know how to correctly handle the material, giving it a lightness of touch, but also enough bloody and shocking spectacle to stir up viewers.

As the story begins, Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) is a selfish, mean mercenary, stealing and killing seemingly for pleasure. Upon hearing from a reaper that his soul is damned, he retreats to a monastery, attempting to find peace through non-violence. Years later, turned out into the world, he begins wandering the countryside. He's attacked by a band of robbers, and a kindly family helps tend his wounds. Before long, demons and monsters attack again and kidnap the family's beautiful daughter (Rachel Hurd-Wood). Solomon vows to get her back, but realizes that he must leave behind his life of peace and once again embrace violence. Little does he know that the fight will lead him back to his own family.

Bassett may sometimes go a bit too far, as in the relentless downpour and gray mud that decorates the bulk of the film, or the crucifixion scene, but on the other hand, no self-respecting pulp writer ever let his hero off too easily. Scriptwise, the movie might also have done without all the backstories and flashbacks, but even with then, Solomon Kane still has a stripped-down feel, and focuses entirely on its troubled hero, with little room for supporting characters. He's fascinating, and it's easy to see why he was so popular a century ago, and why he could still command a movie -- or a series of movies -- today.

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