Set in the 17th Century, Solomon Kane promises much but doesn’t quite hit the mark. Written and directed by Michael J. Bassett the film is based on the character by pulp fiction writer Robert E. Howard, creator of the fictional character Conan the Barbarian, amongst other stories.
This murky tale is presented in a landscape which is dark and foreboding, set mainly in Devon and Somerset. Kane’s accent seemed to change dramatically from ‘baddie’ Kane in the opening scenes set in North Africa to when he saw the light and sort redemption in the West Country- all within the space of a year. Interesting.
The fight and weapon scenes, although gory, where somewhat lacklustre and I found the physical presence of actor James Purefoy portraying Solomon Kane did not contribute to his hero status. Purefoys acting skills spot on, anger- tick, remorse- tick, but Purefoy needed more physical bulk and muscle to add to Solomon’s characterisation. The costumes of Solomon achieved some of the anti-hero/ hero status which I expected (donning his hat and cape Zorro style which worked on a slightly comic level as well as a on a butch ‘look at me’ style too.)
High points of the film include Pete Postlethwaite as the puritan and devout family man William Crowthorn and also the scary demonic characters in the possessed mirrors desperate to take human lives. The Biblical and puritanical elements and references (good versus evil) and Solomon’s renouncing of violence ran thematically throughout this epic film as does justice and retribution which gave the film its context.
For me this film did not quite work because it was overstated and lacked subtlety. I thought this medieval yarn would be more complex, less cartoon like and less clichéd. It ain’t all bad though. Solomon Kane reminded me a little of the 1985 film Legend which remains one of my favourites. If you’re into your adventure-fantasy fiction or a fan of comic novels, this film is definitely for you and I’d highly recommend it (and from what I gather this is the first of a trilogy…) For everyone else, stay in and do that secondary reading you’re supposed to be doing for your studies.
Lashings of purple prose, I grant you, but I felt this was more in tune with Hammer-era Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter-style shennanigans.
So left of po-faced, but also reasonably good humoured in its updating of Howard’s swashbuckling.
Also Purefoy’s physicality is something of a relief after the cartoonish Conan essayed by Ahnuld.