A spiritual man goes after a demonic army by summoning his inner Rambo, in this hack-and-slash fest from the imagination of Robert E . Howard (creator of “Conan the Barbarian”).
Everyone knows “Conan,” but the character of Kane was always my favorite of Howard’s creations. This guy rocked a Pilgrim get-up and traveled the world seeking out witches, demons and bad dudes of every stripe. Rather than asking them to repent, he would just lay into them with his favorite weapons, pistols and sword.
The film starts out with Kane enjoying his role as a brute for the English Navy. He invades a Spanish fort in Africa (circa 1600) and lays waste to the soldiers within before battling his way to a crypt. There, he confronts a demon and finds out his soul has been pawned to the biggest bad guy of them all.
He decides to give up the blade and become a man of peace. Flashbacks reveal that he ran away from home when his father demanded he become a priest, since his oldest brother would be the one to inherit the family kingdom. On his way out, he has a fight with his brother and appears to accidentally kill him.
Back in present day, he is taken in by a devout family after he is waylaid by three thugs. Things go swimmingly until the family is set upon by an evil army that is working hard to make people fear them more than the plague. It’s working, thanks to a hulking henchman in a leather mask.
Kane tries to talk these guys down but that goes over like an oily plate of undercooked spinach. Turns out, he misses the blade, and he proceeds to hack these guys into so many pieces that burial won’t be an option.
The evildoers escape with the family’s teenage daughter. The dying father tells Kane that he will win his soul back when he rescues her, and Kane is off on the quest.
It all leads to a huge battle at his family castle where the evil guys, led by Malachi the sorcerer, are ensconced. There, he learns the true identity of the guy in the leather mask and must unseat Malachi from his father’s throne. This is all complicated by a huge demon warrior and an army of pustule-sporting bad guys. Let the battle begin.
This is sort of like what would happen if Conan was written by H.P. Lovecraft. Kane is a carefully constructed hero with a good back-story and a whole can of “I’m gonna knock the snot out of you” in his backpack. It totally captures the essence of Howard’s stories, with the best bit being an encounter with a deranged priest who has imprisoned his flock after the devil turned them into ghouls. When Kane confronts this guy, he learns — almost too late —- that the way to keep your ghouls fresh is to feed them weary travelers.
It all comes together under the skilled direction of Michael J. Bassett. Try to remember that name, because this guy has made some ultra-cool thrillers, but has gotten zero recognition for them. His first two features, “Deathwatch” and “Wilderness,” went straight to video, and this film has yet to even snag a release. In his native England all three films enjoyed a theatrical run before going to home video.
This film is his biggest yet. He puts together a seasoned cast and makes the film look like a billion dollars despite budgetary limitations. James Purefoy (HBO’s “Rome”) cuts a fine figure as the tortured Kane. Max von Sydow and Pete Postlethwaite are also good in small roles.
The movie also rocks some boss action scenes where Kane whips into the bad guys like a 17th century Cuisinart. Limbs fly everywhere here, folks. Now, if only someone would go out on a limb and release this, so we can all enjoy it.
Best line: “That creature is your brother.”