"Monty Cristo" here once again.
SOLOMON KANE has had a long road to its US release since playing Fantastic Fest a few years ago. The movie has been available on iTunes pre-theatrical VOD for a few weeks now, and I'm glad a few hundred of you saw it with us at SDCC this year.
SOLOMON KANE tells the story of a bad man turned-Puritan who has more sins to atone for than may be possible for him to redeem. After spending a long stretch in an abbey, he is pushed out into the real world by the brotherhood that took him into their healing arms. Gangs of miscreants infected with some sort of demonic possession rove the countryside. Kane comes across a family with younger children. Initially, he needs their help, but the tables turn abruptly when they are attacked by a gang lead by the ominous, merciless Malachi.
Based on stories by Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan the Barbarian, the movie hews very close to the tone, spirit, and style of the source material. Instead of reinventing the character into a pastiche of modern archetypes and tropes like so many big-budget studio tentpoles, the filmmakers set their sights on faithfully translating the character to the screen without involving so much interpretation that the core elements that make him compelling disappear.
The story and execution may, therefore, come off as old-fashioned and not "modern" enough for some, but that's precisely why I enjoy it. I don't hold that every adaptation should be the mirror image of its source (far from it), and, in fact, SOLOMON KANE narratively works as a prequel/origin story to the established lore. It was to have served as an introduction to the character with the intent of further expanding into the existing stories, but, sadly, the holdup in finding a US distributor has all but (if not completely) killed that notion. I do think there's something to the idea of a cable mini- or maxi-series continuing the story on a network like FX, AMC, HBO, or the like. Ideally, the same creatives could be involved down to James Purefoy starring, but I have no insight to these things.
The movie generates investment into not only Kane himself, but the entire supporting cast, including one of the final performances from the great Pete Postlethwaite. I'm glad that he received credit for being the force of nature that he was in his work. As the father of the family Kane meets, Postlethwaite perfectly embodies kind, steadfast lion of tyhe pride. His wife is played by Alice Krige, whom I wish we saw more of these days. Speaking of strong father figures, Max von Sydow plays Kane's father to wonderful, touching effect. Maybe it's my daddy issues, but the relationship, though only briefly seen, really got to me. Jason Flemyng plays yet another "makeup role" as the beast-like Malachi.
James Purefoy as an actor has impressed me greatly since I first saw him in HBO's ROME as Mark Anthony. He commands the screen in both lead and supporting roles like classic leading men would. The unique vintage that breathes his style of calm assuredness is rarely found bottled anymore. Yes, he often has a smug, self-assured, crooked grin on his face, but that's representative of an actual persona, rather than the bland, blank slate generally found at the center of movies with a conventional hero at their center.
SOLOMON KANE is both the most faithful and all-around effective cinematic adaptation of Robert E. Howard's canon. The movie may not be your cup of tea, but that could also be said of the books (just as with the Ahnuld CONAN movies). I'm very glad that it is finally on big screens across the US.
Solomon Kane has been on iTunes for a while and opens in limited release across the US today in these cities (click here for exact theater locations):
Los Angeles (Burbank)
Support genre action if this is your kind of thing. I hope it finds its way to some cities in Texas theatrically. Hell, I wish I could set up a Tugg on-demand screening myself.
Here are some relevant AICN links from the last 3 years that may be of interest: