Here is a film that completely slipped me by. I’d heard the name and not much praise or even talk about it for that matter. Solomon Kane is perfect popcorn entertainment with a large helping of religious butter thrown on top. This doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the film and it does what it’s supposed to. Entertain.
I had it in my head that this film was made in the early 2000′s but it’s only as recent as 2009 so it’s hardly a true retro review perse, in my mind at least. What I also didn’t know is that the Solomon Kane film is based on stories written that span back as far as 1928. So rather than some flippant made up character for the sake of making a new hero in a film, we have an already established one with plenty of lore. Directed by Michael J. Bassett and starring James Purefoy as the titles character along with Max Von Sydow and Pete Postlethwaite, Solomon Kane is an (almost) sweeping fantasy epic film set in the early 1600′s in a time of witchcraft, brutality and eeeeeevil. Kane is introduced in the beginning via a great action set piece of a village being annihilated by he and his men. His lack of sympathy is played off well by Purefoy, delivering a convincing personality bereft of morality. So well in fact, I thought we were actually watching the rise of Solomon Kane’s arch nemesis in the beginning, not Kane himself. I guess that’s fitting as through the film, it’s Kane’s darker side that is his true nemesis, the reason being that killing in battle for Kane is as easy as breathing is to us. Kane is scum at the beginning of this film and it’s his slow redemption throughout the film that holds a lot of sway with me as a viewer. I enjoy films where the main storyline is a character of little emotion or care, finding what it is to be truly human again.
Kane finds that his soul is forever damned to hell and vows to never kill again and be a man of peace. Of course, you just know that he’ll change his mind some way through the film or it would be a pretty boring affair. Meeting up with a priest and his family, they request that he joins them on their journey. Along the way, what happens to the family was a pleasant shock to the system from what you usually expect in these films. There are many instances in Solomon Kane where you think you know what they’ll do with a particular scene, and quite the opposite happens. It’s always refreshing when this happens in film as the same old tropes are usually used because someone assumes that’s “what the people want”. Films are at their best when they leave you speechless and unsuspecting. Solomon Kane does this in a few places but also falls into many cliched plot points as well. Once Kane renounces his peaceful vow, he pretty much rampages through the enemy to find the truth about who he is up against, that leads right back to his childhood and some deals with the devil.
Religion features very strongly throughout and considering I’m a godless heathen, you would think that this kind of subject matter would put me off even watching it but it’s really quite the opposite. I love films based on religion. It’s the ultimate fairytale and great fantasy fodder for film. Films like Constantine, Demon Knight, The Omen, The Exorcist or anything along this theme have plenty to love about them. You don’t have to believe it to be immersed into the world and enjoy it on a movie level. Solomon Kane falls directly into the same spot. Kane himself is portrayed as a Jesus type character who is excellent at killing people, kind of an oxymoron really. They even go so far as to have him crucified. I do think they went a little overboard on this film with it. We also get plenty of slo-mo hero posturing with powerful orchestral music to put across the feeling that Kane is not to be fucked with.
Other problems arise, and this could be a more personal thing for me alone, but I hated it in this film where Kane is lanced clean through his shoulder with a sword from back to front, then once the sword is pulled out he just keeps on fighting like nothing happened until there’s a small break in the fight where he grips his shoulder in pain. I’m sorry, but that isn’t a good enough portrayal of a seriously injured man. Too many films do this with one exception being in my last review of Jack’s Back where I noted one of the bad guys getting kicked in the balls and not getting up from it. Bravo. Kane however just keeps on going like nothing happened. When this happens in these films, all it does is cause you to care less about the plight of the character and you have almost no worry about him getting killed, or even hurt for that matter. That is not a good thing for a film. It happens a lot with films these days and though most people would just pass it off as adrenaline getting them through or whatever, I just can’t buy it.
There’s plenty of awesome swordfighting choreography in this film. It’s not everyday that you see a swordfight between two people with one of them completely on fire. This was a great highlight and a precursor to the final showdown which sadly felt a lot more like a boss fight in a videogame. This seemed really out of place in comparison to the rest of the film and was pretty anticlimactic which is a shame. For the Devil, you’d think he’d have a bit more clout than that. His reaper at the beginning set piece was far more scary, imposing and intimidating than anything else in the whole film. I was hoping Kane would go up against Satan’s Reaper again but ’twas not to be.
Apart from these problems, Solomon Kane is a great piece of entertainment albeit a little derivative. There are definitely some shocks you won’t see coming and some plot lines that you will. All the roles are delivered with enough weight to be convincing and the set piece battles and CG effects are of above average quality. Some of the cliched plot holes could’ve easily been avoided but that was obviously what they thought would be the best path to take. Otherwise, this is solidly enjoyable flick. A grade action in a B grade film.