The early 80s saw a whole raft of so-called sword and sorcery epics. The success of Star Wars meant that audiences were obviously desperate for more fantasy cinema – or not. Nowadays the likes of Krull, Hawk the Slayer and the Beastmaster are more likely to be seen propping up the late night film schedules and only people of a certain age will admit to liking them.
Solomon Kane seems intent on reviving the genre but has a tricky task. Firstly if you not a fan of mystical hokum, nothing in evidence here will change your mind. Secondly, the titular hero is from the West Country. Imagine Jimmy Nail as Spender taking on the world’s terrorists.
Kane (James Purefoy) is a murderous mercenary who when threatened by a demon with eternal damnation, renounces his violent ways in an attempt to save his soul. When a warlock threatens his native land, Kane must take up arms and fight evil on earth.
The film is based on a comic book character, which can make it a tricky transition to the screen. It is a brave decision by director Michael Bassett to play the film straight. No light relief or idyllic settings here. The West Country tourist board circa 1600 must be turning in their graves. The perpetual rain and mud is an interesting counterpoint to the witches, warlocks and 30ft hell beasts.
The end result is as if Ridley Scott decided to merge the decapitations and bloodletting of Gladiator with the hocus pocus of Legend. If you are able to suspend your disbelief enough, then there is much to enjoy. Purefoy makes an engaging lead, despite dealing with the worst accents since Kevin Costner in Robin Hood. Rachel-Hurd Wood is also good as a kidnapped daughter who represents Kane’s hopes of redemption.
Ultimately the film is forgettable yet enjoyable, but the hopes of a franchise suggested at the film’s climax are a little hopeful. It’s difficult to see the film gaining a wide audience.