Although M. J. Bassett’s adaptation of Robert E (Conan) Howard’s Solomon Kane was a box office flop* on release in 2009 (the US release delayed to 2012), the picture has since gained a reputation as a cult favourite.
James Purefoy (HBO’s Rome) plays Kane, a very naughty English pirate captain in the early 1600s who changes his career path after an encounter with demons on the Barbary Coast.
Now a reformed soul, Solomon must decide to partly embrace his violent ways when his Puritan friends and ancestral homestead are in danger from the very same demonic forces.
I actually prefer the ‘evil’ Kane at the beginning of the movie, but obviously that wouldn’t work in terms of character development.
Max Von Sydow turns up as Solomon’s father the squire Josiah Kane, a role akin to his Sir Walter Loxley in the following year’s Robin Hood…
The cast also includes Von Sydow’s Game of Thrones colleague Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane), Rachel Hurd-Wood, Mackenzie Crook, the late Pete Postlethwaite, Alice Krige and Jason Flemyng. It’s amazing how little use Solomon Kane makes of its two strongest performers: von Sydow, who appears only twice (in what is essentially a bit part), and Pete Postlethwaite, who transforms his minor character’s routine death into something oddly close to touching. James Purefoy is adequate in the title role, if a little too reminiscent of Hugh Jackman circa Van Helsing. Kane’s wide-brimmed slouch hat alone necessitates a bit of levity, which the film only embraces when it’s time to bust out the cutlass and get hyper-violent. In repose, the whole thing is sort of a drag; its palette is drab and murky, the drama is nondescript, and an atmosphere that’s meant to add gravity only manages to undercut a sense of playfulness that only rarely shows through. Material this pulpy ought to be delivered with a grin rather than a grimace.
The movie attempts to capture something of old Amicus films such as Witchfinder General (1968) and Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971), in which it’s partially successful – although the generic CGI monsters don’t help, but at least they’re not as crappy as those in the vaguely similar Season of the Witch (2011)…
Much like 2011’s Conan reboot, Solomon Kane didn’t have the box office impact to create a franchise, which in case of Kane was a shame, since sequels could have improved on its flawed but watchable debut. Purefoy has gone on to buckle his swash again in other movies and TV shows, including Ironclad (2011), John Carter (2012) and the series Camelot (2011).
A year later another UK movie with a heavier take on witchcraft appeared in the shape of Black Death…which also had a healthy representation of future GoT cast members, namely Sean Bean, Carice van Houten, Emun Elliott and Tim McInnerny.
*$19.6m for a $40m budget