Great movies come from all around the world, and so do great DVDs and Blu-rays. Import This! is an irregular feature here at FSR that highlights discs and/or movies unavailable in the US that are worth seeking out for fans of fantastic cinema.
Solomon Kane is good fun for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that this type of film just doesn’t get made that often anymore. Swords, sorcery, monsters… there was a time when these flicks were commonplace, and that time was the 80’s. Movies like The Beastmaster, The Sword & the Sorcerer, Conan the Barbarian, and others are rollicking adventures made by people with a strong love for the genre, and Michael J. Bassett’s Solomon Kane fits in perfectly with the best of them.
Solomon Kane walks away from his father’s kingdom as a child and grows into a murderous mercenary who acts with greed and without conscience. His selfish ways meet their match though when the devil comes seeking his soul, but Kane escapes the demon’s wrath by leaving his violent ways behind and becoming a man sworn to pacifism. That oath gets tested when an evil scourge unfolds across the land and good people fall prey to a seemingly unbeatable foe. The people need a hero, and who better to face off against evil than one who knows it firsthand…
Country of origin: UK
DVD Label: Entertainment In Video/UK
DVD Region: 2*
Solomon Kane (James Purefoy) begins the film as a villain who shows no mercy as he slays men left and right whether they’re armed or not. His character is an interesting one in that his turn to good is initially based solely on an interest in self-preservation. It’s only after people he comes to care for are slaughtered before his eyes that he risks both his life and his soul to stand up for what’s right. It’s an interesting dilemma for Kane, but this is no sissy drama… we’re here for the hack and slash, and thankfully Kane doesn’t think too long before picking up his swords and flintlock pistols and painting the hillsides red.
This is a solid action/adventure that truly does bring the viewer back to classics from the eighties. Bassett, who also wrote the screenplay, has a firm grasp on Robert E. Howard’s lesser known character and has created a fantastic origin for him. Kane is basically a man who pays a daily penance for his past misdeeds by dishing out death and dismemberment to evildoers, and he does it with style. Do I fully understand the ending? Hell no, but that doesn’t mean the film isn’t a bucketful of fun.
The film has several highlights including a crucifixion and subsequent escape that would make Christ himself jealous. The swordplay is impressive both in one-on-one fights and in a couple larger scale battles. Kane is equally adept at using his pistols, an uncommon weapon in these types of films, but they’re welcome for their variety and because they’re just damn cool. Bassett’s camera-work is fluid and often responsible for some fairly breath-taking scenes of spectacle and action.
Even as the movie hearkens back to what makes this genre so damn entertaining it can’t help but squeeze one modern-day convenience in to the film’s detriment. Goddamn CGI blood. It’s nowhere near as copious as was evidenced in Ninja Assassin, but very few of the fight scenes and murders go by without a digital splash or two. It’s obvious and annoying, and a flick this fun really deserves better. And by ‘better’ I mean Karo syrup and red dye #5. The rest of the film’s CGI is used mostly on the fantastical creatures, and while I have a soft spot for monsters birthed from practical effects the CGI work here is effective and entertaining.
Solomon Kane played to a very positive response at last year’s Fantastic Fest in Austin, but it remains inexplicably without a US distributor. It’s adventure on a budget to be sure, but it works on almost every level as a fun, old-school sword and sorcery flick. Purefoy is charismatic, the fights are well choreographed, the villains are menacing and suitably brutal, and it not only deserves to be seen but it deserves a sequel too. Fans of adventurous heroes, black magic, and muddy peasants will not be disappointed.
DVD: Entertainment In Video’s DVD is region 2, but as there are currently no plans for a domestic release this may be your only chance to see it for the foreseeable future. The special features include commentary from director Michael Bassett and star James Purefoy, interviews, a making of featurette, a deleted scene, and featurettes on the film’s effects and artwork.
– Buy Solomon Kane on DVD from AmazonUK
*Note: I use a Phillips DVP-5990 region-free player. It’s currently available at Best Buy for under sixty bucks, and it has so far handled every DVD I’ve tossed at it. Feel free to email me with any questions.