Solomon Kane was released in the U.K. (and the rest of the world, apparently) back in 2009 and 2010. But for whatever reason, the U.S. got dicked out of a release. Until now. Solomon Kane hit VOD over the weekend (it still should have gotten a major theatrical release, but at this point, I’ll take what I can get), and I had to watch it right away. This film was written and directed by Michael J. Basset, and if you haven’t seen some of his earlier work (Deathwatch and Wilderness, in particular), you definitely need to check it out.
Solomon Kane is based on a series of pulp stories written by Robert E. Howard (the dude who wrote Conan) back in the ‘30’s. Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) is a badass. And an evil man. He has fought in many wars and battles, and delights in the kill. At the opening of the film, he is confronted by the Devil’s Reaper, who informs him that the Devil owns his evil soul, and that he is damned. Kane gives this concept a great big “fuck you” and escapes, though not unscathed. Fearful of the hold the Devil has on him, he vows to live the life of a good man in the hopes of somehow redeeming his past evils. Fate, however, is cruel, and Kane’s vow of peace is ultimately put to the test, as he is confronted by an evil force that threatens those he holds dear.
The thing I loved about this movie is that it was fantastic without slipping into cheesy. Evil, demons and sorcery abound, but Basset plays it completely straight. And it is that straight tone that really elevates the film. My brain sort of categorizes Solomon Kane in the same file as lesser-known comic and genre properties such as Constantine, Dylan Dog, and Van Helsing (you know – the ones that always manage to get optioned and screwed up). Except Solomon Kane is way WAY better. It steers clear of the trappings and pitfalls that those other films fall victim to. It doesn’t go for laughs and it doesn’t rely on only the FX budget to try to tell its story. It allows the story and the characters to be the centerpiece, rather than the CGI, and everyone involved seemed to understand that this was a story worth telling.
The performances were great. Purefoy is fantastic as Kane. He really sells this reluctant hero trying to keep his dark side in check so that he might redeem himself and lead the life of a good man. While he didn’t get a ton of screentime, Jason Flemyng is very effective in the role of the sorcerer, Malachi. Pete Postlethwaite is great (as always) as the Puritan family man bound for the New World who offers Kane a new life and a chance at redemption. If there is a silver lining to this film being delayed in the States as long as it has, it’s that the universe gave me one more Pete Postlethwaite role. This man was great in everything that he did, no matter the part, and I really really miss him.
My only real complaint (and it’s a minor one – certainly didn’t ruin the overall takeaway) is that I wish Kane would have been a bit more badass. He wasn’t a wuss by any means, and all of the action sequences were well-choreographed and well-shot. And they even looked realistic. We didn’t have Purefoy draw his sword and then suddenly see a CGI Kane fly through the air, beheading all of the bad guys at the speed of craptastic light. I just wish they had gone a little further into showing us that not only was Kane a badass, but he was the ultimate badass. That he is a preternaturally gifted fighter and most of his enemies don’t stand a fraction of a chance. I just didn’t get that vibe.
But again, that little gripe didn’t ruin anything. It’s an enjoyable film in a subgenre that doesn’t typically enjoy this level of storytelling. Definitely worth your time.