Solomon Kane is the title character of a film that’s been around the festival circuit for a while now and is finally coming to theaters in the U.S., and VOD here in the U.S., fortunately for fans of this type of film. For some, hearing that Solomon Kane is a character created by the late, master of pulp fiction, Robert E. Howard is enough to get them to go see it all by itself. After all, Kane comes from the mind that brought us Conan and Red Sonja.
James Purefoy is “Solomon Kane”, who is a ruthless killing machine of a ship captain when the film begins, slaughtering his opposition left and right. But when he moves to plunder a temple in North Africa that has a throne room filled with golden treasure, he runs into a problem. The Devil’s Reaper, come to claim his soul over a deal he says Kane made with the Devil himself. Kane escapes, but clearly he is aman whose soul has been damned and he will have to work hard to avoid being sent to hell.
He moves to a monastery in England where he wants to live in solitude the rest of his life, atoning for his sins. But that is not to be his path. The head of the monastery has a dream in which he sees that Kane must leave and find his answers elsewhere. He tells Kane to go home. That is when we learn that Kane is of noble birth and is a landowner, something of import in the 1600s. But as we learn in flashback, he was the second son of “Josiah Kane” (Max Von Sydow) and his father plans to let Solomon’s older brother “Marcus Kane” (Samuel Roukin) inherit and rule. Solomon rebels at being ordered to join the church and become a priest and leaves. He later encounters his brother Marcus and in a struggle, Marcus falls to his death.
Back in the present, Solomon is accosted on his journey by three thieves who assault him, more violently when he refuses to fight back and claims he is a “man of peace”. When he awakens, he is in the back of a trailer that had passed him earlier and offered him a ride (which he refused). The father is “William Crowthorn” (Pete Postlethwaite). The Crowthorn family are Puritans, and planning to leave for the New World. There is a mother, two sons and a daughter, “Meredith” (Rachel , who takes a little fancy to Solomon Kane.
But the idyllic journey is shattered when the family passes by a village that is being pillaged and looted by a gang of marauders led by a man in a mask who does not speak. He is the lead henchman of Malachi, the sorcerer who is trying to conquer these lands and enslave the people. The Crowthorn party is discovered and the marauders want to carry Meredith off. She bears the mark of a witch the group had encountered earlier that Solomon had driven away. The family beseeches Solomon to kill the marauders before they can take Meredith away, but at first he tries to hold on to his stance of no more fighting, no more killing. This is because he knows that once he starts down the path of violence again, his soul is lost and he will ultimately join the Devil in Hell.
But when they start to leave with Meredith, and they have stabbed William who tried to resist, Solomon can sit by no longer. In the struggle, he slays many of the marauders, although they manage to kill both of William’s sons and escape with Meredith. Dying, William tells Solomon that he must go after and rescue Meredith, and that if he succeeds in saving her, his own soul will be redeemed.
From that point, Solomon Kane is nothing more than the journey of Solomon to save Meredith and find redemption. There is plenty of action along the way, with the true nature of the man behind the mask, the fate of Solomon’s father, the true goal of Malachi in taking Meredith, all being revealed.
Director Michael Bassett, who adapted the screenplay from the creation of Solomon Kane by Robert E. Howard shows his clear, deep understanding of Kane and what drives him. He is a tortured soul, who knows just how evil a man he was, and how that drives him to find a way to cleanse his being of his sins. The visuals are a bit disjointed in places, and the coloring and frequent presence of rain and mud become a hindrance rather than an enhancement of the scenery of the era. Purefoy is excellent, striking the right mix of emotional expression for a man who would give anything to undo his past and who is willing to do anything to rescue the woman who may be able to prevent his impending descent into the depths of Hell.
Why this film traversed the festival circuit two years ago and is only now becoming available is a question for studios and distributors to answer. That it is available for viewing now is a good thing for fans of this genre of filmmaking and they should not miss it. I suspect it won’t be around long.