Solomon Kane (2008)
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
I'm a sucker for epic magic-fests set in the midst of an ordinary period in history, so even though I went in to Solomon Kane expecting the worst, I came out pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it. It's part period drama during the reign of Elizabeth I, part Puritan adventure, and part comic book, with a hodge-podge of supernatural forces and a lot of familiar faces.
A brutal, merciless, and ruthless man, Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) pursues only treasure and glories beyond his wildest dreams, until he encounters a demon sent from hell to collect his soul for Satan. Utterly terrified but able to escape with his soul intact, Solomon bargains with God for the protection of his soul if he gives up his life of violence. One year later, he is concealed in a monastery when the priest feels that he must leave and reenter the real world, perhaps to face his demons. Though a loner by nature, Solomon's refusal to fight a band of renegades who steal him blind leaves him in the care of a Puritan family bound for the New World. But as wrath and vengeance unfurl around him, as dark forces assault England and its innocent masses, as witches mark the lovely Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood) for enslavement, Solomon may be forced to abandon his pacifism and embrace his old skills... if only to face down the demons of his past and return home.
Fast-moving and full of action, this film walks a surreal path between straight up period drama and supernatural thriller. The initial sequence, as his men are sucked through mirrors into hell, paves the way for an interesting arc that combines different religious beliefs with an "alternate reality" version of England, where there are still some Catholic monasteries (and the hero, presumably, is also Catholic) but Puritan beliefs trickle into his larger worldview. He cries out to God for strength in moments of weakness, but the underlining message is that his soul is redeemed not through Christ, but his actions. If he can save the innocent Meredith from evil, his soul will be saved from damnation. It's an interesting twist, completely in keeping with the Catholicism of the middle ages, but it is strange that comes out of the mouth of a Puritan!
This is a dark and gritty world, so for every moment of lightness and emotional bonding there is one of violence and loss; not everyone makes it out alive. The first act is stronger than the second and the ending seems a little anticlimactic, but also hints that this was intended to launch a franchise. After watching the hero fight his way through literal hordes of mindless zombies and show an uncanny discernment for evil, despite my surprise that there was no romantic undercurrent after all, I'm rather sorry it didn't create more of a sensation. Its huge budget, terrific cast (among them, Pete Postlethwaite, and Max von Sydow) and decent script kept me entertained.
A man harasses a woman (implication is, he intended to rape her before another stopped him).
Fight scenes are long and gory; heads and limbs fly off with spatters of blood, people are stabbed, shot, decapitated, and nailed to crosses.
The villain uses black magic to transform ordinary prisoners into zombie-like minions of darkness; witches and sorcerers are present, but always seen as evil.