A twist of fate allows Kane to avoid his hellish fate and, faster than you can say “get thee to a nunnery,” Solomon is swearing off violence and joining a monastery. Fast forward a few years and Solomon is a changed man…outwardly, at least. As played by the excellent James Purefoy, Kane is a fascinating case study of a man denying his true calling.
As the movie opens, Kane is a bearded, sweaty slayer, truly reveling in the orgy of violence he’s participating in. Post-Reaper encounter, Purefoy changes gears completely. As a result, we truly come to believe that Kane believes in his own redemption, even while knowing that it’s only a matter of time before his deadly skills are required. Inevitably, Solomon is told to leave church ground’s for the first time in years by an elderly abbot (Max Von Sydow in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo). Scared shitless of the devil claiming his soul, Solomon nonetheless obeys and takes to the road where he joins up with a group of puritans, including the recently departed Pete Poslethwaite and the Borg Queen herself, Alice Krige.
The following plot beats are predictable but still moving, as Solomon’s vow of non-violence is tested when his new-found family is threatened with death by a roving band of demon-possessed humans. A heartbreaking moment occurs when Solomon’s failure to act leads to a young child getting his throat cut. Purefoy really milks this moment for all its dramatic weight, looking to the sky and demanding answers from a silent God before finally admitting that killing might be the only thing he’s capable of doing well.
Kane dons his familiar hat and cloak, straps on pistols and blades, and gallops off to rescue the group’s kidnapped daughter… all the while knowing that each step takes him closer to eternal damnation. Solomon Kane’s main plot is a familiar revenge tale with dollops of supernatural drama thrown in for seasoning.
But it’s the performances, not the storytelling, that take the movie to the next level. A lesser actor might have appeared silly wrapped up in Solomon Kane’s garb and exchanging tough guy one-liners in the movie’s perpetual rain-soaked world, but Purefoy, whom I previously loved in Ironclad, takes the role of Kane and just runs with it, making it instantly iconic. He excels at playing both sides of Kane’s character arc: the pious, honorable man and the killing machine.
The Verdict: [rating:3.5]
But its on Michael J. Bassett shoulders most of the movie’s success should be laid. He treats the material with utter seriousness and respect, never going for the cheap laugh or the easy moral choice. Solomon Kane is an extremely dark movie, never shying away from violence and featuring one truly groovy crucifixion sequence. It speaks volumes about the current state of Hollywood that a well-made movie like Solomon Kane can get released in Europe and Asia to good reviews, but can’t secure a decent release here in North America. Do yourself a favor and seek out this little gem; it’s proof that astronomical budgets will never trump imagination and dedication to the source material. (Oddly enough, Purefoy recently had a role in Disney’s John Carter, a movie that proves my point better than I ever could have.)
Your faithful reviewer,