Solomon Kane (2009) Movie Review

Michael J. Bassett’s “Solomon Kane”, based on the fictitious Robert E. Howard character, is a movie I’ve been following for a while. What can I say, the premise and idea behind the character, a lesser creation by Howard compared to his more famous Conan, appeals to me. After some delays, including a lackluster showing at Comic Con, the film was dumped into European theaters in early 2010, but as of this review has yet to find its way Stateside. The movie has been playing various film festivals around the States, but it’s looking increasingly likely that the film will never find a major theatrical run. The best case scenario, then, is a limited release followed by a major release on DVD and, as is the fashion nowadays, video-on-demand. So why the glum reception, Solomon Kane?

James Purefoy (late of TV’s promising “The Philanthropist”) plays the titular character, a 17th century English nobleman turned pirate turned scourge of decency everywhere. Basically one bastard of a guy, when we first meet Solomon he’s killing his way through a town to get a hold of the promised treasure within, only to find himself confronted by the Devil’s Reaper, a big ass demon with a big ass flaming sword. Realizing the error of his ways (the Devil coming to claim your soul will do that), Solomon flees in terror, promising the Good Lord to right his wrongs by living a peaceful life. Easier said than done, as it turns out.

A year later, Solomon finds himself in the English countryside, where he meets the company of the Crowthorn family, led by patriarch William (Pete Postlethwaite), and including young daughter Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood), quite possibly the most pure and innocent lass in all of the land. Solomon and the Crowthorns, who are on their way to the New World, soon crosses path with disfigured raiders in the service of the devilish Malachi (Jason Flemyng), whose men are running rampant across the land killing, kidnapping, and enslaving all that cross their path. When the Crowthorns fall prey to Malachi’s raiders and lovely Meredith is taken, the reformed Solomon Kane is forced to take up arms once more. Killing his way through Malachi’s ranks in order to get to the head man himself, Solomon soon discovers that his disastrous past has caught up with him…

I’ll be honest with you and say that I’ve never even heard of Solomon Kane until the movie was announced many moons ago. But a quick perusal of old Robert E. Howard Kane stories would seem to indicate that writer/director Michael Bassett (“Deathwatch”) knows plenty more than I do. “Solomon Kane” the movie is filled with the kind of adventures that Howard wrote about, including slave traders, piracy, demons, and in one instance, cellar dwelling vampire-type creatures. But instead of the movie taking Solomon to various locales around the world to confront these villains, the film instead focuses on a singular storyline (Kane’s search for the kidnapped Meredith) while incorporating the elements from the old Howard standbys. How faithful are they to the source material? I couldn’t tell you, though they certainly make for interesting obstacles for our hero.

“Solomon Kane” will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but fans of sword-and-fantasy movies should get a kick out of it. The film is certainly action-packed enough, and Bassett effectively sets up Solomon’s downfall as well as his return to violence. James Purefoy looks like a chameleon throughout the movie, and honestly, the Solomon that shows up at the beginning of the film, greasy hair and bloodlust and all, looks nothing like the changed Solomon that accepts the Crowthorns’ kind assistance on the road. Purefoy looks at home in the oftentimes muddy, snow and rain-soaked role, and is very convincing as the gruff, cold-blooded pirate turned black-clad avenger of innocents. As an aside, Purefoy would go on to star in “Ironclad”, another period film where he swings a sword for most of the movie. I don’t know if he purposely chose to do the two films back-to-back, but I’m sure all the training he did for “Solomon Kane” didn’t go to waste in “Ironclad”. It’s a nice gig if you can get’em.

I’ve always found director Michael Bassett’s films to be watchable, beginning with his debut, the WWI horror movie “Deathwatch”, and continuing with 2006’s survival horror outing “Wilderness”. “Solomon Kane” continues a streak of pretty good genre movies from Bassett, and although there are times when the film stumbles (the ending, with the CG monster is clumsy and seems to go nowhere), “Kane” always remains very watchable. The ending of “Solomon Kane” clearly leaves itself open for a sequel, or perhaps even a franchise, but considering the hard time the film’s had just getting to the big screen, that seems like a non-starter. Still, for 90 minutes of solid, swords-and-fantasy entertainment, give “Solomon Kane” a watch. It didn’t blow me away, or make me want to go hunt down some old Robert E. Howard “Kane” stories, but it also never bored me for one minute.

Michael J. Bassett (director) / Michael J. Bassett (screenplay), Robert E. Howard (character)
CAST: Pete Postlethwaite … William Crowthorn
James Purefoy … Solomon Kane
Jason Flemyng … Malachi
Patrick Hurd-Wood … Samuel Crowthorn
Rachel Hurd-Wood … Meredith Crowthorn
Alice Krige … Katherine Crowthorn
Rory McCann … McNess
Stewart Moore … Garrick


Buy Solomon Kane on DVD



About Nix

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Editor/Writer at BeyondHollywood.com. Likes: long walks on the beach and Kevin Costner post-apocalyptic movies. Dislikes: 3D, shaky cam, and shaky cam in 3D. Got a site issue? Wanna submit Movie/TV news? Or to email me in regards to anything on the site, you can do so at nix (at) beyondhollywood.com.

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  • taranaich

    Howard may be less famous than Conan, but he is most assuredly not a “lesser” creation by any means. In fact, some Howard fans consider him Howard's finest creation altogether.

    It's a shame, but also not surprising, that the film didn't inspire you to read Howard's original stories, given that for all Bassett's knowledge of them, his Kane bears little to no resemblance to Robert E. Howards. Case in point, the entire film is a complete invention. Kane was never an evil man: he fought evil all his life. He never went to a monastery to atone, he never fell in with a Puritan family, everything with his family history is invented. The timeline of the Kane stories is completely wrecked by placing “evil Kane” in 1600, when many of the stories featuring “good Kane” are set well before then. The film also gives the distinct impression of God, the Devil, heaven and hell being concrete entities, which is quite the opposite of the original stories, where it's far more ambiguous.

    It's about as close to Howard's work as Van Helsing was to Bram Stoker's original Dracula. The difference is that this is claiming to be a faithful adaptation.

  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool aka Jiinx

    Actually no it doesn't. It claims to be about the character created by Howard. In at least two of the interviews I've seen or read, Basste claimed it was inspired by the works of Howard, but he wanted to tell an origin story to introduce people to the character. And I think doing the whole “Evil Kane” thing was to make the character more believable as a hero. There's nothing wrong with being a Hero for the sake of doing what's right but when that hero has ghosts of his own to deal with it makes them slightly more human and not the pinnacle of goodness. I for one hope we get another film where he gets to go to Africa where alot of the stories took place.

  • John Silent

    I wouldn't come down so hard on Michael J. Bassett. This film, perhaps not the best as an adaptation of Robert E. Howard's stories, is still leagues above any other sword & sorcery film since the 1980s. It slits Van Helsing a good one in the throat. I'm willing to take the route that “evil Solomon Kane” at the beginning of the film was not always evil. His comment about his voyage with Drake “not ending well” seems to give a nod to “The One Black Stain.” Telford and those other dudes who said they sailed with him seem to trust that maybe SK wasn't such a bad guy after all unless he was faced with heathen black magic and demons coming out of mirrors (If I let this guy run away, the whole damn crew is going to leave me here with fakkin' demons on my tail!). “1600″ just seems like an arbitrary, round-number date.

    I was expecting a lot, lot worst when I first heard MJ Bassett was doing an origin story instead of going to the Howard tales because stupid film producers wouldn't give cash to an actual adaptation. There are at least glimmers of the real SK here and there through the second half of the movie, and Purefoy growls his way through just like I imagine Solomon Kane would (the man is perfect for the role!). The parts with the witch and the church cellar carry a similar atmosphere to Howard's horror stories (Think “Thing in the Mound”), and the main story has a “Wolfshead” vibe to it. No comic sidekicks, no love interest (for SK, this would be something of a no-no), and the whole redeeming-soul-as-motivation plot is completely wrapped up by the end of the movie so SK can start kicking some demon ass out of pure righteousness later on.

    I actually think this one surpasses “Conan the Barbarian”. The creators didn't crib stuff from the short stories out-of-context and patch them into an unrecognizable origin. This movie stands apart from Howard's stories, yet carries their atmosphere quite well.

    I'm really hoping for a sequel, because given the chance, I think Bassett could pull off a good adaptation of an actual Howard story. I want to see James Purefoy put on that hat again.

  • John Silent

    I wouldn't come down so hard on Michael J. Bassett. This film, perhaps not the best as an adaptation of Robert E. Howard's stories, is still leagues above any other sword & sorcery film since the 1980s. It slits Van Helsing a good one in the throat. I'm willing to take the route that “evil Solomon Kane” at the beginning of the film was not always evil. His comment about his voyage with Drake “not ending well” seems to give a nod to “The One Black Stain.” Telford and those other dudes who said they sailed with him seem to trust that maybe SK wasn't such a bad guy after all unless he was faced with heathen black magic and demons coming out of mirrors (If I let this guy run away, the whole damn crew is going to leave me here with fakkin' demons on my tail!). “1600″ just seems like an arbitrary, round-number date.

    I was expecting a lot, lot worst when I first heard MJ Bassett was doing an origin story instead of going to the Howard tales because stupid film producers wouldn't give cash to an actual adaptation. There are at least glimmers of the real SK here and there through the second half of the movie, and Purefoy growls his way through just like I imagine Solomon Kane would (the man is perfect for the role!). The parts with the witch and the church cellar carry a similar atmosphere to Howard's horror stories (Think “Thing in the Mound”), and the main story has a “Wolfshead” vibe to it. No comic sidekicks, no love interest (for SK, this would be something of a no-no), and the whole redeeming-soul-as-motivation plot is completely wrapped up by the end of the movie so SK can start kicking some demon ass out of pure righteousness later on.

    I actually think this one surpasses “Conan the Barbarian”. The creators didn't crib stuff from the short stories out-of-context and patch them into an unrecognizable origin. This movie stands apart from Howard's stories, yet carries their atmosphere quite well.

    I'm really hoping for a sequel, because given the chance, I think Bassett could pull off a good adaptation of an actual Howard story. I want to see James Purefoy put on that hat again.

  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool

    Finally got to see this and it definitely lived up to my expectations. I agree that the demon at the end was kind of shoehorned in but it didn’t ruin the film.

    @John Silent- you are 100% right in your analyzation of the film. Given the heavy burden of creating an origin for a beloved (if not well known) character, Bassett and Co, delivered and I really liked that this character who is so well known for his puritan ethic and such didn’t start that way. He had one foot in hell, and those who have known true evil first hand are usually the best at finding it where it hides and erradicating it. You could tell just from the witch at the campfire scene that he knew something was wrong when the pius and kind Crowthorns were oblivious. It was a fun, and well done movie and I too hope for a sequel, as I think Bassett could adpadt and expand on Howard’s stories very well.

  • Trish

    I have read and seen the Conan books and movies and can tell you that in my book Solomon is much more interesting. I have both the books featuring short stories of Solomon’s adventures. After reading what you stated about the plot of the movie (hope it comes to the states soon) I can state unequivocally that I am going to do some more research in the pursuit of more stories about Solomon Kane. Thank you for posting about the movie. Looking forward to it.

    • http://www.beyondhollywood.com/ Dedpool

      It’s a really good movie I think, and for a smaller budget was actually better than the new Conan. I didn’t hate that film but I real like they rushed the story a bit. I doubt Kane will get a sequel or Conan for that matter but they could both use one since both films were origins. Sent on the go!

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