We always find it advisable to have a nice piece of gammon to hand when watching a new movie featuring the inestimable talents of Sir Anthony Hopkins because ham of one sort or another is usually on the menu. Solace, a bizarre, low-key but inoffensive little thriller, actually sees him dial at back a bit at times – he even seems to be phoning it in occasionally – as psychic John Clancy drafted in by the cops to help track down a serial killer. But the murderous Charles Ambrose (Colin Farrell) is also psychic and his advanced abilities keep him one step or more ahead of the cops and even the urbane, initially reluctant Clancy.
Originally conceived as a sequel to David Fincher’s 1995 rain-soaked classic Se7en, Solace was ultimately substantially rewritten into a stand-alone project and in doing so it has become another routine serial killer thriller distinguished from any other straight-to-DVD effort mainly by its higher profile cast. Hopkins now seems unable to function unless he’s riffing on his infamous Hannibal Lecter persona. Here, even though he’s ostensibly on the side of the angels, he’s still brooding and menacing, often comically eye-boggling (there’s a hoot of a car chase sequence where he uses his psychic powers like a SatNav) and there’s no escaping the Silence of the Lambs-like vibe between Clancy and FBI good girl Katharine Cowles (Cornish). But there are few decent ideas dotted in amongst the psychic pretensions; the serial killer’s victims are all suffering from potentially-fatal diseases (he argues that he’s effectively a ‘mercy killer’, sparing his victims a lingering, painful death), we’re briefly wrong-footed as the initial suspect turns out not to be our man at all and the ‘we didn’t see that coming’ fate of Clancy’s former cop colleague Joe Merriwether (Morgan) pulls the rug from under us, if only temporarily.
If you’re a Colin Farrell fan you’ll have to wait a good hour before he finally rocks up as the proper serial killer (he only worked on the movie for five days) and he instantly forces the film to raise its game. His cat-and-mouse psychic sparring with Clancy is tense stuff and the climax, aboard a speeding subway train, is more gripping than anything we’ve seen across the previous eighty minutes or so. There’s no doubt that Solace is wilfully absurd but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad movie. There are one or two questionable narrative curveballs and ‘excuse me, they did what now?’ moments but director Poyart navigates us through the film’s frequent bumps in the road with some stylish set-ups and nifty visuals showing several versions of possible futures on screen at the same time. Not as clever as it thinks it is or it might like to be, Solace certainly isn’t as dumb as some reviews have suggested and we safely predict that you’re not likely to resent the hundred or so minutes you spend in its company.
SOLACE / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: AFONSO POYART / SCREENPLAY: PETER MORGAN, SEAN BAILEY / STARRING: ANTHONY HOPKINS, COLIN FARRELL, ABBIE CORNISH, JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN, XANDER BERKELEY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW