Thursday, September 27, 2012

Michael J. Bassett's SOLOMON KANE (from the Conan man) gets tardy theatrical debut

The character of Solomon Kane was first intro-duced in 1928 by the pulp fiction/sci-fi/fantasy writer Robert E. Howardwho also created Conan the Barbarian, and who was immortalized by the excellent actor Vincent D'Onofrio early in his own career in Dan Ireland's fine film, The Whole Wide World.

TrustMovies is leading off with the above information because the back-story here beats out considerably what we see on screen, even though what we see is very well produced (there must have been quite a budget for this one!) and decently acted, but written and directed (by Michael J. Bassett, pictured at left) just a little too slowly and heavy-handedly to keep the film's (and our) juices flowing fast enough. The other big problem may be that the story's rather odd combination of a religious (sort of), sword-wielding hero in the 1700s and some kind of not very well-explained but seemingly all-powerful and supernatural evil force is neither a marriage made in heaven nor hell. Instead it simply sits there on screen without ever quite coalescing. The combo seems somewhat original--let's give it that--but also rather unnecessary.

We want to be, and sometimes are, caught up in the human actions and reactions of the characters. And, then, dat ol' devil stuff (above) intrudes and interferes -- with special effects galore -- and it's as though we've entered another movie.

According to Wikipedia, the film was a critical success in England and was also well-received in France and Spain. If so, I wonder why it has taken three years for it to hit U.S. theaters? (One of its fine supporting actors, Pete Postlethwaite, above, has been dead for almost two of those years.)

The star of the film is the brawny, buff actor James Purefoy, above, who has had success in films both intellectual (the TV version A Dance to the Music of Time and the movie version of Mansfield Park) and action-filled (Resident Evil and Ironclad) -- though he may be best-known over here for the HBO series Rome, which combined his plentiful acting ability with some equally plentiful full-frontal work. As Solomon, in which he is mostly lock-jawed, taciturn and usually fully-dressed, he is perfectly OK but not, after all else we've seen him do, particularly interesting.

The surprisingly stellar (and really enormous) cast also includes Alice Krige, Max von Sydow (above), Rachel Hurd Wood (below) and Jason Flemyng, but they tend to get lost amidst all the glum and gloom, the many other cast members, and finally those special effects (just a taste of which are shown two photos up and at bottom).

The rights for filming this property are said to have been negotiated some fifteen years ago, back in 1997. I am surprised somehow that Mel Gibson did not grab them immediately and do the film with himself in the lead. I mean, there is a scene here in which Solomon is crucified, for goodness sake. What more could our masochistic martyr Mel have wanted in a role?

Solomon Kane, distributed by Radius TWC (that's some web site the company has bothered to set up!) and running 104 minutes, opens this Friday, September 28, here and there, I guess. In New York, look for it at the AMC  Empire 25.  In the Los Angeles area, try the AMC Burbank 16. Elsewhere? Your move.

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