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edge staff writer


‘Solace’ a thriller lacking thrills

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Film fails despite solid cast, intriguing premise

Making a thriller is relatively easy. Making a good one is considerably less so.

You’d have a hard time finding a film that more aptly illustrates that point than “Solace,” a film that had the foundation in place to be an OK movie only to squander it all on recycled tropes and strained dialogue and clichéd twists. As you might imagine, the result is less than impressive.

Joe Merriwether (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, TV’s “The Walking Dead”) is an FBI agent confronted with the toughest case of his career. A serial killer is targeting seemingly unrelated people and murdering them in what appears to be an untraceable fashion. He and his partner Agent Katherine Cowles (Abbie Cornish, “Lavender”) are at a loss as to how to catch this killer.

In desperation, Joe turns to an old friend. Dr. John Clancy (Anthony Hopkins, TV’s “Westworld”) was once a regular consultant on particularly difficult FBI cases due to what are essentially psychic powers. However, when his daughter died and his wife left him, John became a recluse.

But Joe manages to draw him out of retirement to start working the case, against the wishes of Katherine, whose background in psychology makes her skeptical of John’s purported “abilities.” John starts having visions regarding the murders and it soon becomes clear that the killer (technically a minor spoiler but it’s pretty clear early on and he’s fourth-billed in the cast; it’s Colin Ferrell) has assured himself of every advantage.

Joe, John and Katherine have to put aside their differences and overcome their own personal obstacles if they are to have any hope of tracking down this killer – especially since he might just be aware of every single move that they make.

“Solace” could have been a good movie. Director Alfonso Poyart has assembled a talented cast here; you could slide this bunch into a prestige film or high-end TV series and not miss a beat. And the premise isn’t without its merits; sure, the whole “psychic detective” thing is tired, but with a lead like Hopkins, you could see something interesting happening.

Something interesting did not, in fact, happen. And “Solace” is definitely not a good movie.

One of the key elements to a good thriller is the generation of tension, a task at which “Solace” utterly, definitively fails. The pacing is slow and the narrative meanders. Even when things happen, there’s little discernible rhyme or reason to any of it. We’re given no real reason to connect with any of these characters, save for a handful of completely unearned emotional moments. It’s not even that we know what’s coming next – though we most assuredly do – but rather that we simply don’t CARE what happens next.

The filmmakers obviously had a very specific aesthetic in mind here, but the effort to elicit a noir-ish vibe never really works. Worst of all are the intermittent flashes of John’s visions – they all look like amateur music videos shot by first-year film students on spec for Scandinavian black metal bands, weirdly fitful and aggressively unsubtle. Visually, the thing’s a mess.

And despite their talent, the cast isn’t much help. Hopkins gives off a vibe that’s equal parts not giving a crap and wondering how he even got here in the first place. Sure, it has been a while since Sir Anthony bothered with anything so trivial as emoting, but he’s been good about finding projects where that feels like a strength (“Westworld” springs to mind). Bad call on this one; John Clancy looks bored even when he’s having nightmarish crime-solving psychic visions.

Morgan’s another guy who looks discomfited, though in his case, it’s more about clearly wanting someone to give him something interesting to do. Instead, he’s kind of adrift, though he’s not phoning it in. Ditto Cornish, who was given even less to work with. They’re both game, but it doesn’t work. And as for Ferrell, well … it kind of seems like he’s only here because he owed someone a favor. There’s a sense of disconnect between him and the rest of the film.

“Solace” was never going to be a great movie, but it could have been decent. There was enough here for a solid, relatively enjoyable thriller. Instead, we got a boring mishmash of tonal dissonance and narrative nonsense. But hey – I saw it so you don’t have to.

Take solace in that.

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