Solomon Kane: 2009 Movie Review
After a lifetime of murder and mayhem, remorseless mercenary Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) renounces violence after discovering that his immoral ways have condemned his soul to hell. But when he returns back to his home in England he discovers that an even worse evil has taken reign in his lands, but will fighting back against this threat ultimately result in his redemption or his infernal suffering.
Cast: James Purefoy, Max Von Sydow, Pete Postlethwaite, Alice Krige, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Jason Flemyng, Mackenzie Crook. Director: Michael J. Bassett. Writers: Robert E. Howard (original characters), Michael J. Bassett (screenplay).
Solomon Kane was created by early 1900’s novelist Robert E.Howard, probably most famous for his creation of Conan the Cimmerian, Kane’s first appearance was in a 1928 issue of Weird Tales. Howard described his character as a ‘sombre, gloomy man with a pale face and cold eyes’. Dressed head to toe in black and carrying two pistols and a rapier, Kane wandered the world fighting witchcraft, black magic and evil men.
The opening of the movie takes place during Kane’s murderous past as he and his cut-throat army of mercenaries invade and pillage a large fortress town in Africa in 1600 AD. Whilst fighting their way to the riches and glory contained within the fortress’ large throne room, Kane becomes separated from his men, confronted by the Devil’s reaper who discloses that Kane’s nefarious lifestyle has forfeit his soul, and the reaper is there to deliver Kane unto his master, Kane refuses to yield to the demon’s demand, leaping from the throne room’s window into the tempestuous seas below.
A year passes and we catch up with Solomon in an Abbey in England, he has taken refuge here in an effort to recant his former murderous ways and live life as a man of peace in a desperate attempt to save his soul from damnation. Solomon is asked to leave the sanctity of the Abbey after it’s Abbot has a prophetic vision of Solomon’s future. Deciding to return to his land of noble birth in Devonshire, Solomon during his travels is attacked by a trio of vicious mercenaries who leave him for dead after he refuses to break his vow and fight back. Found and nursed back to health by Meredith Crowthorn (Rachel Hurd-Wood) daughter of a travelling puritan family, he ends up joining them temporarily on their journey.
But when an encounter with a strange masked warrior and his band of zombie like minions ends with the death of the Crowthorns and kidnapping of Meredith for their Necromancer master Malachi (Jason flemyng), Solomon breaks his vows of peace and sets out on a path of revenge to rescue Meredith and end Malachi’s demonic reign. Thus ensues a bloody path of vengeance and retribution, that will either condemn Solomon’s soul to hell or redeem it for all eternity.
British Director Michael J.Bassett’s film interpretation of Howard’s classic evil smiting puritanical warrior is as close to it’s original source as anyone could ever hope to get, it really is as if Solomon had leapt on to the big screen from the pages of the books and comics themselves. Bassett’s reverence for Howard’s original books is tangible, and the casting of native Devonshire actor James Purefoy really is the icing on the proverbial cake, Purefoy is an amazing and very underrated actor and gives his all in this adaptation, going from an evil and detestable character to one you actively feel pity for, and ultimately end up rooting for as the film unfurls (plus being a native of Devon, his accent, of course, is spot on). Backed up by a stable of other astounding actors including, the late, great Pete Postlethwaite, acting legend Max Von Sydow and the always entertaining Mackenzie Crook.
The film’s many fight scenes choreographed by sword master Richard Ryan are superbly put together, and also very savage and gruesome, limbs are hacked off at an alarming rate and Kane’s notoriety as a peerless warrior shines through in these awesome sequences, with Purefoy doing 95% of his own stunt and sword work.
Beautifully shot by Dan Lausten in England and Prague, the film is very dark and foreboding, and again like it’s similar counterpart film Black Death also has the feel of a classic Hammer movie. The English landscape is littered with broken down churches, soulless graveyards and eerie hanging corpses replete with carrion crows and a constant deluge of rain and mud. The film’s original soundtrack by Klaus Badelt is also outstanding, rousing and haunting in equal measure, and is one of my very favourite movie compositions in years.
Receiving many positive reviews when it was unveiled amongst both critics and fans, the film in its initial release at the cinema only recouped an estimated £12,000,000 of its estimated £33,000,000 budget, but has gone on to surpass this through DVD sales and deservedly so. Solomon Kane is one of the greatest sword and sorcery films in decades and comes highly recommended.