Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before. There’s a serial killer on the loose and the FBI are stumped. At their wits end they turn to a mysterious man played by Anthony Hopkins who uses his special insights to help them track the serial killer. As the case unfolds, Hopkins’ character develops a special bond with a cool headed and forthright female FBI Agent. Am I ringing any bells here?
If you’re thinking Silence of the Lambs you’re wrong. This is Solace. Written in the early 2000s, the film was apparently given to David Fincher as a potential Seven sequel, but Fincher (displaying some pretty damn sound judgment) turned it down. The project promptly disappeared into development hell, where by all rights it should have stayed. But now, somehow, it’s escaped. May God have mercy on our souls.
Set in an anonymous American city, we follow FBI agents Merriweather (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Cowles (Abbie Cornish) as they track an enigmatic killer who doesn’t leave a scrap of evidence. Merriweather turns to his old contact John Clancy (Anthony Hopkins), who can see both past and future. As a sceptical Cowles does her best Dana Scully impression, Clancy explains that he’s retired and will not, no kidding, no way, no how, ever do this kind of work again.
Five minutes later he’s on the case. And so the stage is set for a game of cat and mouse as the FBI agents and their psychic buddy rush to track down the mysterious killer before he strikes again, quickly realizing (to their horror) that he’s got psychic powers of his own. Two thirds of the way through the film Colin Farrell shows up. You connect the dots.
On paper, a serial killer detective movie featuring Anthony Hopkins and Colin Farrell as duelling psychics is pretty tantalizing. They’re both capable of fantastic performances and are able to chew scenery with the best of them. So I figured, at worst, Solace would be enjoyably trashy. But optimism can be a terrible thing…
Suspicions are raised from the very beginning: the title fades onto the screen, followed shortly by the dictionary definition of the word. If there’s a quicker way to let an audience know the film thinks you’re a moron I’ve yet to find it. We also can’t help but quickly notice that the star, Anthony Hopkins, is completely disengaged, spending the entire film looking like he’s deciding what restaurant to have dinner at that evening.
His zero-effort performance essentially consists of him squinting at the middle distance as he ‘sees’ the future, before reciting his lines in a bored monotone that suggests he thinks he’s too good for this rubbish (well, he is, actually). By the midway point I’d concluded that Solace must be some contractual obligation he’s been strong-armed into fulfilling. That or he’s doing this on purpose as revenge for the ridiculous hairpiece he’s saddled with.
Also too good for this is Colin Farrell, who’s obviously acutely embarrassed by the awful dialogue he’s expected to deliver. In the brief scenes these two great actors share together, they plough through this pretentious rubbish through gritted teeth – you can imagine them rolling their eyes in exasperation the moment the camera cuts away.
But bad acting and crap dialogue is just the mouldy cherry on top of Solace’s thoroughly rotten gateaux. It’s Alfonso Poyart’s direction that makes this almost literally unwatchable. The film is shot in nausea-inducing shaky cam, the director unable to shoot a simple two person static conversation without the camera drunkenly bobbing around and randomly zooming in and out.
Somehow worse are Hopkins’ psychic visions, all high contrast colors, rapid-fire editing and knackered ‘eerie’ imagery – infused with a D-grade film school project vibe. On top of all that, there’s this weird late 1990s feel that must be the scars of its long development. Poyart seems inordinately proud of a Fight Club style shot where time freezes and a virtual camera swoops around the set, as well as an honest to god bullet time sequence that’s so hilariously dated it almost wraps right to awesome. Almost. Solace is the first English language film of Brazilian director Afonso Poyart and based on this, I dearly hope its his last.
I could sit here all day and list Solace’s many flaws, but frankly, I feel I’ve already spent way too much of one lifetime thinking about this movie. It’s a practically criminal waste of acting talent, it looks and sounds terrible, and (despite being all cod-philosophical) is dumb as a box of rocks. Avoid avoid avoid.
I'm deeply envious of Anthony Hopkins' future seeing abilities. If only I had his powers I could have avoided wasting my time with this terrible psychic serial killer drivel.