In the 1600s, Solomon Kane is a bloodthirsty English pirate who fights for Queen Elizabeth. When one of the Devil’s Reapers shows up and tells him he has sold his sould to the Devil, Solomon seeks out redemption and for a while lives in a monastery until the Abbott sends him out for find his calling. He discovers a land terrorised by an evil sorcerer and his demonically possessed minions, and though he has supposedly renounced violence, he may need to take up arms again to help the friends he has made………..
Solomon Kane seemed to be barely in cinemas and unsurprisingly was pretty much ignored by the critics but that’s a shame, this is a hugely enjoyable fantasy actioner. Based on stories by Conan creator Robert E.Howard, it’s been said to resemble the cheesy but highly entertaining sword and sorcery flicks of the early 80s such as The Beastmaster and Hawk The Slayer, but it reminded me more of Flesh And Blood and even the superb Brotherhood Of The Wolf. This is the film that Season Of The Witch should have been- no unnecessary humour or toning down of the dark elements, a fantasy adventure that presents on screen a really convincing late Medieval [or is it Renaissance, I’ve forgotten some of my history!] world and blends in aspects of horror that never seem out of place. I knew this movie would be good right from the opening scene, where, after a brief battle, soldiers walk down a hallway filled with mirrors and demons suddenly come out of the mirrors and snatch some of the soldiers!
Actually the opening section of this movie could have used some work and seemed to me a bit rushed-I especially would have liked to have seen more of Solomon’s transformation from murderous brigand to peace loving monk. Nonetheless the following thirty minutes or so are really engrossing-the pace is quite leisurely and of course Solomon, as a monk, is not supposed to commit any acts of violence but suspense is high, it reminded me of some of the old Bruce Lee films where for a while, although you know he can kick people’s arses, he holds back for a while, until he is pushed and pushed and pushed….. and then finally cuts lose in awesome style. Now when they come I was most impressed with the fight scenes-not too many dumb close ups and the speed of the cutting was just right, fairly fast to pump up the excitement but not too fast so you can’t see what’s going on. Towards the end the budget limitations show somewhat, with a final battle that’s rather limp and a rather too easily vanquished monster, but the effects are still quite good and visually the Reaper is a really memorable sight. Thankfully, good old fashioned suits and prosthetics appeared to be used alongside the CGI.
Although not an especially gory movie, little effort appears to have been made to tone down the violence for once, and I especially like the Conan-like way that people are bloodily slashed during the action, it made it feel quite realistic. There’s also a really vivid sense of the Gothic at times, such as the pit with possessed men, and often interesting set design by the great Patrick Tatapoulous-he doesn’t go for realism but what would help create atmosphere. Also a great help is some striking photography by Patrick Houstsen-much of the cinematography is done in rain, yet it’s still quite a pretty film to look at and he creates some striking dark tableau. Some of the camerawork reminded me of Brian De Palma [great praise if you know me!] such as a great slow swooping shot where the camera observes Solomon go through a castle door and then goes up and over the wall to then come down and join him the other side. I’m not saying that Solomon Kane is a modern classic, but there’s a lot of impressive work in this movie, far more than you might think. Speaking of Solomon, he’s certainly the most interesting hero of his kind in quite a while, even if he does look like Van Helsing with his long hair, long black coat and hat!
James Purefoy does a fine job as Solomon, getting across his frustration and pain, and out of the rest of the cast I was most impressed with Rachel Hurd-Ward as Meredith, a girl who crosses his path [which reminds me of another reason I really liked this movie-no unnecessary romance for a change!]. Klaus Badelt’s score really goes with the images and at times is quite rousing, though he seems to be recycling music he wrote for Pirates Of The Carribean-one theme is almost exactly the same! A few aspects, especially the script, would have benefitted from more time [and maybe money] allocated to them, but this is one underappreciated movie that really deserves to find its audience and maybe one day will. A shame that we probably won’t be seeing more of Solomon Kane though-I reckon this could have been one entertaining and inventive franchise.