‘Solace’ review: Stellar cast can’t save this serial killer movie’s absurd premise
Most films don't seem destined to fail by the start of its opening credits, but most films don't provide the dictionary definition for the title of their picture at the onset. This is the first of many problems for Solace (defined as: "comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness," if you were wondering), a serial killer drama from Afonso Poyart that was billed as the spiritual successor to Se7en — planned as early as 2002 as an actual sequel to Se7en — before it struggled to find a distributor.
It's here now, and unfortunately, Poyart wastes a terrific cast on a premise that's too absurd to execute with the David Fincher-esque tone of its inspiration.
Solace stars Anthony Hopkins as John Clancy, a psychic who has helped the FBI solve crimes in his heyday, before his personal life was marred by the tragic death of his daughter from leukemia. However, a new serial killer that methodically kills his victims — the victims in question have nothing in common, on the surface — compels Clancy's FBI pal, Joe Merriweather (The Walking Dead's Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to ask him for help. Alongside Joe is FBI agent Katherine Cowles (Abbie Cornish), a psychologist who's understandably skeptical of Hopkins' abilities as a medium.
Clancy brings out his psychic abilities slowly; you don't see the extent of his proficiency until Cowles angers him, and he cooly recites a slew of intimate moments in her life, such as the night she lost her virginity. But Clancy soon discovers he'll have to bring it all out to match wits with the mysterious killer (Colin Farrell), who, for one of the murders, predicts the exact time that the cops would arrive on the scene. Along with other clues, it ultimately leads to an obvious conclusion from Clancy.
"He's just like me," Clancy says. "He sees things, only he's a lot better at it."
(Editor's note: Minor spoilers for Solace below).
Solace eventually divulges into a game of psychic cat-and-mouse between Clancy and the killer, who tries to explain his morally ambiguous logic behind the murders. He kills people who are going to die from some type of terminal illnesses, saving them from a slow and painful death with a quick one. He posits — like Clancy's daughter and her battle with cancer — the victims' families would be grateful in retrospect.
Regrettably, Solace doesn't spend enough time contemplating the killer's ethics, which are genuinely complicated once you realize he is essentially a one-man Dignitas. Instead, Poyart uses Clancy and the killer's psychic powers to present an array of on-screen deaths that aren't deaths at all, just premonitions of what were to happen in a particular scenario. It looks cool, yes, but it's at the expense of Solace exploring the ambiguous motivations the third act exposes (which is another problem entirely: Farrell makes his first appearance as the film's antagonist after the hour mark).
Of course, Solace would've had huge shoes to fill if it attempted to be a straight sequel to Se7en. However, the film that came from the idea — despite deserving credit for a widely different conceit — can't live up to a genre filled with successes. There's plenty of serial killers films that are worth perusing over Solace. Just ask Hopkins.