90% of the time a completed movie sits on a shelf or can’t get distribution because it is terrible and no one would want to see it. Eventually it gets dumped to DVD or theatrically released in February, and some of the money gets recouped that the investors have already declared as a loss. However, 10% of the time, everyone involved in getting a film to market is stupid, and good movies do not get the attention they deserve. Solomon Kane falls strongly in that 10%.
Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) is sword and sorcery tale about a brutal, murdering warrior who attracts the attention of the devil himself, and he comes for him. But Kane escapes, repents his ways and becomes a man of God. And then he soon realizes God’s path to redemption for him may be even more brutal than the life he led before.
Solomon Kane is a lesser known creation of Robert E. Howard, the creator of Conan. All of Howard’s writings are… bleak… but there was a true passion that he put into his writing that transcended other pulp fiction of the 1930’s era. Of course, he also shot himself in the head with a shotgun at age 30 when his mother died. I have read many, many of his stories, including the fragments, and sometimes I sadly wonder about all the stories that were never written.
However, I am so pleased to be able to say, with the abomination of last year’s Conan movie, which made Robert E. Howard turn over in his grave, Solomon Kane will at least allow him to turn back over.
The acting could have made or broken this film. Everyone took it seriously. There are no winks to the camera, no tongue-in-cheek scenes, and mercifully, no annoying sidekicks (who are often street-wise thieves) spouting miserable attempts at comic relief. Purefoy, Max von Sydow and the late Pete Postlethwaite all give believable performances.
It is a quite grim, violent and creepy film. And it SHOULD be. That’s what the writings of REH were. Often violent, horrific, and undeniably engaging. You can’t put them down. And the film makes you keep watching, just to see what horrors Kane will encounter next, and if he will be able to defeat them.
Howard’s character and theme of a Puritan fighting the supernatural evils of the world gets even grittier, and adds a backstory of Kane seeking redemption after showing him to be just as evil as the horrors he encounters. This is a welcome addition and does not hamper the character. Solomon Kane is damned. He is a tortured soul; he becomes a man of God, and a warrior for good, because the evil is so evil, you need a warrior just as brutal to combat it. This is his penance. To kick some major witch and demon ass.
Is the movie perfect? No. There is too much CGI where it simply was not needed. REH’s heroes often fought larger than life foes, but never cliched giant lava/rock monsters and other creatures created in a computer. It just wasn’t necessary. The practical effects, however look great and organic. Also, we have a villain that we don’t see until the very end, whose motivations may have been clearer if we actually saw him throughout the movie. Like James Earl Jones’ serpent/cult leader in the first Conan movie. But Jones actually had decent screen time.
But here is the long and short of it: The DNA and the SPIRIT of the character and stories of Solomon Kane are intact and translate onto the big screen. And it is a joy to watch. REH’s writings were brutal, and visceral pulp fiction, but there was also a nobility and passion that rose it above just mere pulp fiction. The same goes for Solomon Kane. Liberties were taken with the character, but like The Dark Knight formula: if you remain true to the character, you can change the window dressing.
If you like your tales of life-affirming redemption dark, violent and horrifying, look no further than Solomon Kane.