Directed by Michael J. Bassett
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
For as well loved as he and his work are, the late writer Robert E. Howard hasn’t had much luck in the way of recent film adaptations of his work. The 80s Schwarzenegger Conan flicks are but a memory, the recent reboot starring Jason Momoa as the barbaric Cimmerian was absolutely atrocious, and a new, long in the works adaptation of the Howard-inspired Red Sonja has seemingly stalled. This writer believed that bad streak of luck had extended to the movie version of Howard’s ass-kicking Puritan Solomon Kane, especially considering that it was written and directed by the filmmaker who gave us last year’s offensively awful Silent Hill sequel Revelation. Fortunately, though the movie does have its faults, Solomon Kane manages to be a mostly well-made and enjoyable sword and sorcery mini-epic that’s as true to Howard’s work as any movie in recent memory.
Opening in the year 1600 with a rather dodgy sequence full of shoddy CG, Kane introduces our titular character (Purefoy, of television’s “The Following”) as a pirate of sorts, killing with glee as he slashes and shoots his way toward a promised jackpot full of gold. Unfortunately for him, Solomon finds himself face to face with the Devil’s own personal reaper, who reveals to him that his soul is bound for Hell. Kane escapes the Devil’s grasp, only to hole up in a monastery and attempt to atone for his life of evil. Cut to one year later, with Solomon thrust back out into the world as a man intent on peace, even though the lands he must traverse are full of bad men willing to do harm to anyone unfortunate enough to cross their path.
After a mugging leaves him unconscious and badly hurt, Solomon is taken in by the Crowthorns, a kindly group of Puritans: father William (the late Postlewhaite, great as always here); mother Katherine (Krige); sons Edward and Samuel (Anthony Wilks and Patrick Hurd-Wood, respectively); and daughter Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood). Solomon is nursed back to health, and finds himself warming to his surrogate family as they make their way toward the New World. Solomon even entertains the notion of staying with them, until tragedy strikes and leaves the family decimated, with Meredith having been kidnapped by a group of demonic brutes intending to deliver her to a sorcerer with ties to Solomon’s past. Forced to forgo his commitment to peace and again imperil his soul, Solomon takes up the sword once more to save Meredith, and slay any and all evil that stands in his way.
This writer was surprised by how much he enjoyed Solomon Kane. The film moves along at a fast pace, the action is well-choreographed, and the sets, costumes, and photography are all quite impressive. The story, which essentially acts as a prequel to Howard’s tales, is engaging enough, as are the performances from all of the film’s principals (though there is the occasional hammy moment from most throughout). A shame, then, that some of the film’s bigger setpieces are ruined by some lousy, SyFy-level CG. The opening is full of distractingly bad digital effects, while the film’s climax is similarly marred by a somewhat better executed computer-generated villain. Pity, as much of the film’s charm comes from its otherwise rather classical approach. There are times when it even feels like a vintage Golan Globus swashbuckler.
Anchor Bay has brought Solomon Kane to disc with a superb image and stunning audio track, as well as a nice collection of bonus features. In addition to a pleasant and informative commentary with Bassett and Purefoy, the Blu-ray includes a brief but meaty making-of doc, a deleted fight sequence, a montage showing the creation of the finale’s Fire Demon, two decent interviews with Bassett and Purefoy, and a slideshow featuring some of conceptual artist Greg Staples’ impressive work. All in all, a solid disc for a fun movie.
Look – Solomon Kane isn’t a great film, but it’s more than a little entertaining. If you can get past the occasional cheese and terrible visual effects, you’ll find a surprisingly fun throwback to a subgenre rarely done well these days. If you have the spare hour and forty five, be sure to give this flick a shot. Better still, try seeking out Robert E. Howard’s original tales should you like this, the best of recent Howard adaptations.
3 out of 5
3 out of 5