Completed in 2009 Michael J Bassett's Solomon Kane sat on a shelf and was recently dumped on to Blu Ray and DVD, as a long time Robert E Howard fan I was pretty curious about this R rated and decently budget flick.
I enjoy Robert E Howard's writing, his characters, and most importantly, his stories. And this is the movie's greatest weakness. It is an origin story, based on the hints of Kane's background that Howard wrote. I just don't care for origin tales all that much, especially when I know the outcome. Solomon Kane will become the noble puritan avenger.
Writer/Director Michael J Bassett's screenplay and direction are strong and his affection for this material is clear. He plays it straight without a wink at the audience creating an impressively dark and foreboding tone. The fight sequences are extremely well choreographed, with much more brutal blade violence than most will be used to. You don't take a man's head off with a single blow, it takes some hacking. Blades are also stuck in dying bodies and difficult to pull out after a person is stabbed.
James Purefoy does well as Kane, but just doesn't have the charisma to compensate for some of the slower and weaker story elements. Like every Conan adaption Bassett (and or the studio and producers) miss the key element that defined Robert E Howard's tales. Howard was an incredibly depressed man who killed himself. In nearly everything he wrote you could feel the contempt he had for society's corruption and inability to live up to its ideals. Howard wrote of wandering noble savages, searching for a society that would meet its promise. Their noble savagery was contrasted against the "civilized." While Bassett nails most of the dark fantasy elements the story of an evil wizard misses this crucial element that was the reason Howard is still timeless.