Film Review with Robert Mann – Solomon Kane

Solomon Kane ***

The creation of pulp fiction writer Robert E. Howard, known for characters such as Conan the Barbarian, Kull the Conqueror and Red Sonja, Solomon Kane is a character that can be distinctly classified as an anti-hero. Extremely dark, even by the standards of Howard, who has written some pretty dark stuff, he is a character that makes even the likes of Batman seem quite tame by comparison and, given the big screen potential for such a character, it is actually rather surprising that he hasn’t been brought to the big screen before. Now, that he finally has been brought to the big screen, though, has it been worth the wait?

Much-travelled 16th Century mercenary Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) realises that his evil deeds have ensured that his souls is damned and that if he strays from the path of peace Satan’s creatures will come to claim him. Having renounced violence, Solomon travels to England, where he meets William Crowthorn (Pete Postlethwaite), who is travelling with his wife Katherine (Alice Krige) and children Samuel (Patrick Hurd-Wood) and Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood). It seems that new beginnings may be possible, but when they encounter a devastated settlement it becomes clear that Malachi (Jason Flemyng), a sorcerer in the service of the Devil is enslaving the weak and recruiting the strong as soldiers for the Devil’s ungodly armies. When the demons attack the Crowthorns, Solomon knows that if he fights back he is bound for hell. But it’s a price he will gladly pay. With his dying breath, William tells Solomon that if he saves his daughter Meredith, his soul will be redeemed…

Going into Solomon Kane you will probably have a pretty good idea of what to expect and for the most part this is exactly what you get. There are, however, a few things that set this film apart from other films in the sword and sorcery genre, things you may not expect. For starters, the acting is much better than it really needs to be. James Purefoy is excellent as the titular character, delivering a thorughly convincing performance of a character that is actually more complex than you might expect. He is ably backed up by a a strong supporting cast, including brief roles from Max Von Sydow and Mackenzie Crook, although no one even comes close to matching the screen presence that Purefoy has. It certainly helps that the script, written by director Michael J. Bassett, actually takes a decent stab at things like plot and character development, providing some background, in the form of flashbacks to Kane’s childhood, into who Kane is and why his life has turned out as it has, and while the writing isn’t wholly successful – a late plot twist comes as no surprise, for instance – with substance falling by the wayside, the film still has far more going for it than some other similar films. Another area in which the film delivers more than you might expect is in the action. Whereas many movies opt to do everything with visual effects, Bassett has instead taken the route of doing as much as possible for real. So, we have fight sequences that are 100% real, both shot and choreographed excellently. Not only are the fights shot for real but Purefoy himself is the man doing the fighting, not a stuntman and the approach makes for something that is far more realistic and gritty, and thus more thrilling, than in films that opt for CGI where the results often seems somewhat akin to a videogame. Here is one example – in a scene where Kane is fighting a man who is on fire, when the scene was being shot, Purefoy really was fighting a man who was on fire. Just knowing that makes the scene all the more thrilling. The practical approach to the fights doesn’t mean that there is no CGI at all, though, as there is some, even if it is very little. Understandably, it is not the best CGI you will ever see but considering the low budget, the effects are still quite decent and certainly get the job done. Visually, the film isn’t entirely impressive. While the 17th century is captured quite authentically in things such as locations and costume design, the low budget means that the film is lacking the sense of scale it could really do with. This is one of the key things that prevents the film from really standing out. Nonetheless, though, it is hard to deny that Solomon Kane is a film with many strengths that certainly set it apart from other forays into the sword and sorcery genre and even though I highly doubt anyone will actually love this film, it is still a pretty entertaining way to spend an hour and a half and one that may enjoy more than you would expect.


Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.



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