Friday, September 28, 2012

In Theaters/On VOD: SOLOMON KANE (2012)

(UK/Czech Republic/France - 2009; 2012 US release)

Written and directed by Michael J. Bassett.  Cast: James Purefoy, Pete Postlethwaite, Max von Sydow, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Alice Krige, Jason Flemyng, Mackenzie Crook, Philip Winchester,  Patrick Hurd-Wood, Sam Roukin, Isabel Bassett.  (R, 100 mins)

"Is there some reason SOLOMON KANE hasn't been released here yet?" - uttered innumerable times and posted on countless genre message boards by an undetermined number of US moviegoers since early 2010.

It's been one of the great moviegoing mysteries of late as to exactly why it took three years for SOLOMON KANE to get a US release.  It's a large-scale, medieval supernatural fantasy based on a character created by Robert E. Howard of Conan fame, filled with action and special effects, and received generally positive if not exactly exuberant reviews overseas.  It's been on DVD and Blu-ray in the rest of the world since 2010, and was even up on YouTube in its entirety until The Weinstein Company, via their genre subsidiary Radius, acquired it for the US and gave it a VOD and limited theatrical release this weekend.  You know a movie's been detained in distribution limbo for a while when second-billed Pete Postlethwaite died nearly two years ago.  The great and much-missed Postlethwaite looks like his old self here, unlike his gaunt, frail appearances in 2010's INCEPTION and especially later that year in THE TOWN, where it was very apparent that he was quite ill.

As the film opens in 1600, Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) is a mercenary and all-around total bastard whose encounter with a demon calling itself "The Devil's Reaper" (and sounding like Dr. Claw from INSPECTOR GADGET) puts him on a path of peace and redemption.  A year later, he befriends Puritan minister Crowthorn (Postlethwaite) and becomes an adopted member of his family, traveling with Crowthorn, his wife Katherine (Alice Krige), and their three children, including Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood).  They're ambushed by demonic minions of evil sorcerer Malachi (Jason Flemyng), who's after Kane's soul.  Meredith is abducted and as Crowthorn dies, he promises Kane that his soul will be saved if he rescues Meredith.  Kane summons the merciless killer still buried deep within and goes on a vengeance-fueled quest to save both Meredith and his soul, damned to hell after a tragic incident in his past.

Written and directed by Michael J. Bassett (the terrific 2007 survivalist thriller WILDERNESS as well as the upcoming SILENT HILL: REVELATION), SOLOMON KANE isn't an undiscovered classic, but I still can't see why it took so long to get released in the US.   Was it bad memories of 2004's disastrous and universally loathed VAN HELSING, which had Hugh Jackman looking a lot like Howard's decades-old depiction of Kane?  Were there some kind of legal issues?  With some publicity, this would've done well in wide release.  On a slow April or September weekend, it almost certainly would've topped the box office.  It does drag a bit in the middle, Kane's final confrontation with Malachi seems to be over before it starts, and some of the CGI is a little too cheap-looking, especially the fake cold breath and a couple of explosions and some really wonky greenscreen work, but I've seen far worse craftsmanship make it on to the big screen in national release.  Purefoy is appropriately stoic and grim, true to Howard's vision of the character, and he's surrounded by a fine supporting cast that includes Max von Sydow in a small role as Kane's father, plus brief appearances by Purefoy's future IRONCLAD co-star Mackenzie Crook (Gareth on the original UK version of THE OFFICE) and Philip Winchester, who's since gone on to some notoriety on the Cinemax series STRIKE BACK.  And it's always nice to see the ageless Krige, in addition to getting one more chance to appreciate Character Actor Hall of Famer Postlethwaite, even if his exit from the film is a bit early.  SOLOMON KANE is little more than a CGI-heavy time-killer, but it's got enough rousing action and evil monsters to keep one's interest.  It's not nearly as good as it could've been, but it's got a long life ahead of it on cable, where it'll be one of those movies you stop on while channel-surfing and end up watching the whole thing.


  1. Dr. Claw!!!

    According to his blog, even Bassett was apparently even in the dark as to why the film wasn't released in the U.S. all this time.

  2. Is Radius TWC an arm of The Weinstein Company? The Weinsteins carrying over their disregard for genre foreign acquisitions might explain it.