For those who aren’t familiar with the Solomon Kane legend, allow me to enlighten you, albeit super briefly. Solomon Kane was a character created by a master of the pulp-era fiction Robert Howard, who is the same man responsible for Conan The Barbarian. Solomon is an adventurer in Puritan times (16th and 17th century) who struggled with his penchant for violence and simultaneous desire to renounce his wicked ways and find inner peace, most notably in this film, through religion. For those of you (like me) who groan once the dreaded “R” (religion) word is uttered, fear not. The flick does a good job of keeping the religious tones in the background, rather than shoving them down your throat, and the Solomon Kane character is an interesting one to say the least, despite the religious imagery that permeates the film. For such a low-key endeavor though, Kane reaches heights in the grimy, gritty psuedo fantasy historical action genre that its larger budgets peers rarely rise to, and its setting, tone, and brisk pace make it an enjoyable film that is wholly satisfying and whets the appetite for more cinematic adventures of the conflicted Puritan warrior.
The opening of the film quickly paints the portrait of the bloodthirsty mercenary Solomon Kane, a man who, unbeknownst to him, has apparently made a deal with the Devil for his soul, and in return has been granted quite impressive battling abilities and a rapid rise to the mantle of one of the worlds most deadly combatants and exceptional leaders of armed forces. He is portrayed as something of a conquerer, but when confronted by the Devil himself, he quickly changes his brazen ways and seeks asylum in a sleepy, snow-capped abbey, which shelters him from the satanic forces which have so boldly come knocking looking for their pound of flesh…or pound of soul in this case. James Purefoy plays our unlikely hero, a man with substantial acting range and credentials (movie, TV, theater, etc) and does a more than admirable job conveying the inner conflict that dominates much of the second act in the film. Director Michael Basset (whose two directing credits are Deathwatch and Wilderness, two horror films which are both held in fairly high regard in the horror community) shows equally great command of the lens as Purefoy does of evoking the emotional spread of Solomon throughout the film. As what I see as the two major forces behind this venture (Purefoy as our main and Bassett as our director), the tandem make quick work of the two-fold metamorphosis of Kane, from reckless and unstoppable killing machine, to borderline coward and born again man of peaceful faith, and back to vengeful, albeit much more pure, dealer of righteous death. The cast which surrounds Purefoy and acts as the vehicle for Bassetts script and directing arm are equally up to the task of delivering the words and emotions with more than enough gravity and vigor, which helps to make the genesis of Solomon all the more enjoyable and believable. Bassett knows when to pull the metaphorical trigger on omon and unleash his fury, and when he does the film ramps up to 11 and never looks back.
To go along with the admittedly surprising acting and directing is set, costume and effects designs that wouldn’t feel out-of-place in a much larger budget, nationwide theatrical release. The cgi is kept to a minimum, and what is there is perfectly adequate and not cringe-inducing, as if often the case for films without massive studios and resources behind them. The costume and sets/locations are all wonderful as well, with Solomon’s look feeling unique and well…badass enough to make him stand out without being too flashy and colourful as to make him look out-of-place. Since Solomon has made the jump to modern-day comic books, I would be remiss without acknowledging the comic book to movie type treatment this film has, and I say that in the best of ways. This flick comes off as a strong and competent origin story for Solomon, and I truly mean what I said earlier when I mentioned how desperately I want to see the team who brought us this movie get a crack at furthering their interpretation and following future adventures of Kane. For those wondering, there is even a bit of gore which works hand in hand with the visceral nature of the combat. The fight choreography is present, but there is still a rugged grittyness to the swashbuckling here, and while the blood and viscera doesn’t flow quite as liberally as in a proper horror or gore flick, there are moments where I sat a little slack-jawed and saying things to myself like “DAMN SON, SOLOMON JUST FUCKED HIS ASS UP!” Good times, as the kids say.
When the credits rolled on this bad boy, I immediately told my mom check it out. For those of you who might be new to Midnight Showing, my mother and I share a strong film bond, and we often will stop everything we’re doing to alert one another of cinematic gold we stumble upon. For my mother and I, it’s one of the highest honors we can award a flick. Everything about Solomon Kane reeked of awesome. The music was outstanding, the production values were above and beyond what I thought was possible from a film that seemed more of a passion project than outright studio product, and the story held my attention and never let it go, not even for an instant. Kudos to Bassett for continuing to hone his impressive skills, and likewise to anyone who was involved in this flick, as it certainly has skyrocketed to the top of my “best sleeper flicks of 2010” list and I shall be recommending ad nauseum to anyone whose ear I can grab for a few moments. Do yourself a favor and support this one if the opportunity arrises. You won’t be disappointed.