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Solomon Kane


‘…action is ferocious and bloody, but light on CGI…the film looks spectacular without over-doing the fantasy worlds

William Crowthorn (Pete Postlethwaite) and his Puritan family earn the respect of master warrior Solomon Kane (James Purefoy), the brooding antihero of a bleak comic-book adaptation.

Who says nothing good comes out of lockdown? Back in 2009 and writing elsewhere, I reviewed Solomon Kane as a surprisingly good three star movie; I’m recanting that in 2020 as a full four stars, because a blu-ray re-watch reminds me that this largely unseen and wildly underrated action movie is just balls-to-the-wall great. If you think John Wick 2 and 3 look fantastic, and you’d be correct to feel that way, here’s cinematographer Dan Laustsen honing his craft in this medieval sword and sorcery action movie from the fertile mind of Conan and Red Sonja creator Robert E Howard. We’re all late to the party in terms of Michael J Bassett’s movie, but it’s never too late to join the fan-club for a film like Solomon Kane.

We open in unfamiliar territory; a sea-battle off the coast of Africa in 1600. English mercenary Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) storms a castle in style, only to be confronted with The Devil’s Reaper, a demon who has come to collect his soul as a consequence of his immoral life-style. Kane returns to England, but can’t shake his fate, even after becoming a pacifist. Kane throws in his lot with a humble couple (Pete Postlethwaite and Alice Krige) and their daughter Meredith (Rachel Hurd Wood). Meredith’s parents are murdered by a masked creature known as Malachi, and Kane swears revenge, knowing that by doing so, he’ll eventually forfeit his soul…

For a movie to truly click, a lot has to go right. Purefoy is an unfamiliar lead, ideal given that Kane is a troubled, Puritan believer, hardly a typical action hero. Max von Sydow has a couple of lively scenes as Kane’s father, while Mackenzie Crook has a nice bit as a deceptive friend/fraud along the way. The action is ferocious and bloody, but light on CGI; Bassett does a nice job of filling the frame with real countryside rather than virtual armies, and the film looks spectacular without over-doing the fantasy worlds. And for once, this really isn’t for kids; Kane pulling himself bloodily down from a crucifixion isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Solomon Kane seems to have had a few legal issues that delayed the US release for three years, and probably scuppered any chances of proper recognition. But it’s a big, action picture that has blood, guts, monsters and a pretty cool fire-demon for the climax. It’s also got a tight back story, and really might have caught on if a trilogy had followed. I blew 50p on a blu-ray of this, remembering it as being a cut above average for the genre, and would encourage anyone to do the same; what Citizen Kane is to classic movies, Solomon Kane is to bad-ass action.


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  1. Oh my goodness, Ol’10, forgive me for agreeing with your first opinion more 😉 solid 3 star movie is just about how I feel about it!

    • I’ll take it on the chin! I thank at the time, busted fantasy franchises were ten a penny. I’m not a huge genre fan, so this one works for me by not leaning into cliches. As long as you agree with one of my many opinions, that’s fine by me!

    • This really is a neglected work; had some dealings with one of the producers, who never mentioned it. But it leans into the more realistic, adult kind of fantasy which isn’t much seen outside of the first Conan picture.

  2. Another great review that’s spun me in myriad directions, as it was based on fav pulp writer Robert E. Howard, who had a movie made about him (The Whole Wide World), and stars Purefoy, Shakes actor bad boy who also played Joe Carroll in TV show The Following. Both roles resonant a character one can admire and detest. In The Following (show about a murderous cult that uses Edgar Allan Poe’s stories as inspiration to kill), Purefoy kills it, literally, ditto for Kane.
    You mention show is worthy of a trilogy. I agree. Howard wrote many tales & poems about Kane, who was part swordsman, part scales of justice righter, part pagan beast. Lovecraft loved him!

    • I’m seduced into his world for sure; good shout re The Whole Wide World, keep meaning to look at that too. And I really need to do my homework on Purefoy, seems everyone knows more than me!

    • Wow! Amazing to hear other people dig this. It’s a one off and really should have been widely seen! Thanks for the comment!

  3. I only had to watch half of the trailer to decide that I’ll be adding this to my watch list. Thanks 10 and would you believe it – the cinema movie actually has cinematography!! Ye-as! Cheers and Happy New Year! 😎

  4. I looked it up and this is available from the Neflix disc subscription (yes, I am the last person alive still ordering Netflix discs….but perhaps here with all you cinephiles I am with my people. Streaming great for TV shows, discs still rule for film selection. I digress.) I’ve added this one to my queue. It’s always great when you revisit a film you loved and find it still holds up (and devastating when it doesn’t). I can’t resist a film described as the Citizen Kane of bad-ass action. 🙂

    • Doesn’t matter how your see them, as long as they’re good! Used to use the disc selections when I was in the US, good selection. Happy new year!

  5. Yes! This is a perfectly entertaining dark fantasy adventure. It struggled against a sea of high profile similar films (Peter Jackson kinda owned it in the noughts) at the time. Waiting a decade, it’s better for its lack of trite sequels. Maybe.

    • I’m so pleased that it’s not just me that likes this. It’s more brooding and dark than Jackson’s stuff. Thanks for the comment!

  6. The author John Wright was a big fan of the book and did a comparison post of the book and movie. It got me to read the book last year (or the year previous. Things are starting to blend now, sigh) but I never got around to watching this. I want to though. My only issue is the liberties they take with the backstory of the character. he’s not damned and trying to fight it off. He’s fighting because it’s the right thing to do.

    My kind of hero 😀

  7. Ooh I think I caught a glimpse of you at 29 seconds! Nothing wrong with a bit of self promotion though. Purefoy has been a bit hit and miss for me but as Mark Anthony he was really good. Also in Series 1 of Altered Carbon (the following seasons were pants though) he did a cracking job. Wasn’t that keen on his serial killer turn in The Following I’d give that a miss if you’re having a look at his stuff. Anyway that’s a long Yep, I’ll have a look for it.

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