Soloman Kane was filmed and completed in 2009, released in Europe to praise and good box-office, followed by the DVD which has been available since 2010. And yet audiences stateside have been kept on hold for three years with no official explanation as to why. Even director Michael J. Bassett has stated on his on-line blog he has no idea why. The delay is baffling for one simple reason: Soloman Kane is actually a much better film than most sword and sorcery epics of its kind.
Based on a pulp magazine character created by Robert E. Howard, the same writer who gave us Conan The Barbarian, Soloman Kane is an English mercenary with a black soul. “I am the only devil here!” he exclaims as he proceeds to meet the Devil’s Reaper. The man is told he is destined for damnation, but after a brawl with the demon, Soloman escapes and finds that he can keep hell at bay as long as he embraces a life of non-violence. “I am not yet ready for hell,” he declares.
James Purefoy makes a suitably somber Soloman Kane, a man burdened by the knowledge that eventually he is going to be claimed by the fires below. He walks around as though a perpetual dark cloud hangs over him, and yet, despite this constant state of long-faced sourness there’s something about Purefoy’s performance that makes this disreputable lout likable. He also gets to use his real accent. Purefoy is from Somerset, England possessing an accent that is often used for comic effect as a west country bumpkin, yet here it adds a level of authenticity to his character knowing that the man’s odd, country style of speech is actually the real thing.
The film is well shot and makes the epic panoramic scenery of Britain’s countryside look spectacular. Cinematographer Dan Lausten holds the shot long enough for us to actually savor the moment. Our eyes are given the luxury of exploring the screen before the film cuts away, a rarity in much of today’s fast-paced style that feels the need to edit before you can take in what you’re watching.
The film can also boast great support from big names of the screen giving the film surprising gravitas, including Max Von Sydow (The Exorcist) as Kane’s father, Alice Krige (the Borg Queen from Star Trek) as Katherine, and the late, great Pete Postlethwaite who no less than Steven Spielberg called, “The best actor in the world.”
Filmed mostly in the cold, the rain and the mud, Soloman Kane looks undeniably bleak, but its high-action content, the charisma of its leading man, the solid support from its cast and the minimal use of CGI makes the film a worthy addition to the magical sword and sorcery genre. And no offense to fans who consider Arnold’s Conan a classic, but I have to tell you, as a film, Soloman Kane is far more accomplished, which only makes its three year stateside delayed release all the more baffling.
MPAA Rating: R Length: 104 minutes Overall Rating: 6 (out of 10)