Monday, 27 September 2010

Solomon Caine, blowing the medieval bloody doors off

Abel Iscariot.
Eve Jezebel.
Jesus Moses.
Goliath Sodom.

Ok, so the last two don't work so well, but generally speaking, if you slap a couple of biblical proper nouns together you begat a pretty tasty name for a moody hero. Enter Solomon Kane, galloping out of the dead mind of Conan-creator Robert E Howard, off a short theatrical run, and finally to rest perchance to dream at £3.00 a pop on dvd.

Solomon begins the film as a hirsute bad man, a medieval soldier-cum-treasure hunter looking to fillet some heathens in a foreign land and steal their filthy lucre. He doesn't give a crap about you, and will happily let his men get skewered and burnt and assaulted by goblins so long as he gets his gold. That is, until he gets a scare from Satan's bogeyman. Having mightily shat his pantaloons Solomon vows to be nice From Now On, because if he isn't, apparently he shows up on the devil's radar and hell goons will stuff him into a tennis ball and bounce him at Cerberus for all eternity.

Duly chastened, Solomon tries to lay low in a monastery back in wintry England, where he presumably indulges in monkish activities like writing out bibles, tending cabbages and the untrammelled abuse of the young. Unfortunately his colourful past and hairy ways cause disquiet amongst the bald brethren and he is sent packing. Here begineth the film.

Solomon is played by James Purefoy and he is good. Sometimes the lead actor in this type of low-to-mid budget film is no good, so they set the dial to cheesy, in which case you get vommed on with brie for 2 hours. Or they're too good, and you can see them retching out their lines, consumed with self-disgust as they soil their muse for that claw-foot bath with the free hoes, and you feel used, with no hope of scrubbing away the memories in hot soapy water, surrounded by period detail and whores. Mr Purefoy doesn't annoy, and appears to be taking the gig seriously. Or does a good enough job that you can't tell.

And it's a serious business, because all is not mud and frost in England. Soon after hooking up with Pete Postlethwaite (looking marvellously like a tramp carved by Easter Islanders) and his missionary family for a cross-country pilgrimage, a whole shower of evil supernatural poop hits the fan, drenching Solomon and all those about him. Will Solomon swallow the beatings, murdering of innocents and humiliating name-calling without breaking his code of peace? Or will he risk damnation and spit it out for truth, justice and the puritan way? The latter.

The production designer coats everything in either rags or manure, then adds snow, an extra shot of manure, and sprinkles on some bristles. The director then shoots it through a filter made of soil, so we are in no doubt of the grim poverty through which Solomon and his co-peasants toil.

Yea, and this is also good. Too many film worlds are unrealistically clean and pretty. I just wish Solomon had remained more heavily bearded, and that the love interest had been lame and scarred, with eyes smeared in mud, and no shoes.

There are two things that are lacking in the film:

1. A gloss of inventiveness to the story to raise it above sub-Lord of the Rings fare.

2. A hex on the cgi baddy at the end. A Balrog rendered on an Amiga and coated in LavaEffect does not a climax make. Someone clone sfx guru Rob Bottin 6th Day-style, so he pops out lightly skinned and power-mad, insisting on doing special effects on every film and arranging for "accidents" to befall the cretinous studio executives and servile pc-jockeys who commission and churn out this cg junk. With the practical effects of yore the evil things were tangible. They came lathered in grease and saliva. The computers suck the body and menace out of the screen. I can't suspend disbelief for pixels, they intrude too obviously, especially in this olde worlde setting which makes a point of verisimilitudinous grime. We need real monsters, not Mario waving a chain.

Then it endeth. Not as good as The Book of Eli or Constantine, but better than Prophecy 2 and organised religion.

Like Solomon, Ed opposed his brother. Unlike Solomon, Ed is a character from Big Train's staring contest.

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