Roving the violent European countryside of 1600 in a Puritan’s black hat and a cloud of ethical doubt, our title character (James Purefoy) grapples with religious issues not often seen in action movies. (The guy’s an early invention of Depression-era pulper Robert E. Howard, who went on to conceive Conan the Barbarian.) Unfortunately, the film that contains him—already three years old and getting a belated North American release—is torn from the oldest cloth: a borrowed mélange of Lord of the Rings pomp, weightless CGI sorcery, artfully smudged cheekbones and exceedingly dull sword slicings. It’s just a matter of time before old Sol Kane gets the lead out and returns to his destructive urges.
In our chatty Game of Thrones moment, you’ll thirst for a sidekick: a sly dwarf, a wisecracking female warrior, a huggable wolf, anything. Solomon Kane has none of these, and even heavyweight speechifiers like Max von Sydow and the late Pete Postlethwaite (that’s how old the film is) have little to gnaw on. Still, James Purefoy’s nuanced scowl has a weird magnetism; the actor favors his role with an Eastwoodian subtlety that might not be deserved. Composer Klaus Badelt supplies some aching Wagnerian motifs, and when it all comes together—the blasting musical hugeness and our hero’s strange likability—you can pretend you’re in for a better time than you are.
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