Think of almost any role that went to Hugh Jackman, Thomas Jane or Viggo Mortensen in recent years and you can guess James Purefoy would have fancied it.
On paper, the Brit has it all: brawn, brain, looks, gravitas. But for whatever reason – and the pull-out from V For Vendetta perhaps didn’t help – the Rome star seemed beached on the cusp of stardom.
Little wonder, then, that he hurls himself into Deathwatch director Michael J Bassett’s swords-and-scorcery fantasy with such ferocity. Not much story to chew on in Bassett’s script, but Solomon Kane is one hell of a meaty central character.
Created by Conan The Barbarian author Robert E Howard way back in the ’20s, this bloodthirsty 16th Century Puritan antihero is first seen ruthlessly pillaging a Spanish castle before narrowly avoiding having his soul sucked out by a demon.
Solomon duly has second thoughts about his life of evil – and retires from bad-assery to spend the rest of his days praying for salvation in an English monastery. Happily, the priests turf him out, thus sparing us a sequel to In Great Silence and setting Kane on the road to destiny. And perhaps Purefoy, too. Even through a West Cun’ry aahk-cent, he unleashes a performance of immense charisma, etching Kane’s inner struggle of faith and fury with conviction and hacking his way through the movie’s brutal fight scenes like a one-man slaughterhouse.
Aside from a terrific early hall-of-mirrors sequence, Bassett’s movie carries little flair, but it leaves you in no doubt about a broadsword’s capabilities. Impalings, throat-slitting and dismemberments abound.
At one point, Kane takes three hacks to sever a man’s head. Respect. With rain and sleet lashing through most scenes, Kane is a wonderfully evocative throwback, let down only by a little shonky CG. More Kane to come? Maybe. More Purefoy? Without a doubt.
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A brutal fusion of angst and action, this mini-epic gives the sword-and-sorcery genre a bleak, brusque new life. Watch it for some terrific limbchopping and a mighty turn by James Purefoy.