If you’re stuck trying to solve the perfect crime, a clairvoyant can come in quite handy. Especially if he’s played by Anthony Hopkins, who’s been-there-done that in helping FBI catch a maniacal serial killer. Solace, the English-language debut of Two Rabbits director Afonso Poyart, isn’t a Silence of the Lambs sequel in which Hopkins gets to reprise the role of Hannibal Lecter. But he comes pretty damn close in this ludicrous murder mystery, which is stuck somewhere between a bad season of Dexter and a dated crime flick. The film’s heavy-handed atmosphere and ceremonial blood-and-guts display are so pedestrian that, at times, it’s unclear whether Solace is spoofing thriller tropes, or playing them straight.
At times, the film seems like it was entombed in amber since the 1990s, which makes sense, since it reportedly went through an arduous development and production process that lasted more than a decade. Once intended as a Se7en sequel by co-writers Ted Griffin and Sean Bailey, Solace unsuccessfully attempts to replicate David Fincher’s dark ambiance, but besides a similar setup involving two detectives, that’s the only connection to that earlier film. Our leads are on the hunt for a serial killer who, as one character explains, makes no mistakes whatsoever. Abbie Cornish plays Katherine Cowles, a young agent who says inane things like, “This is a mistake … No, let me rephrase it: This is a big mistake.” The baritone-voiced Joe Merriwether (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is a seasoned agent who seems to smile a lot for no apparent reason. He goes way back with the aforementioned clairvoyant, John Clancy (Hopkins), whom he wants to bring out of retirement for a one final job. (From here on out, there will be spoilers.)
Amid an excess of overly stylized and utterly insipid flashbacks, we finally get to meet our villain, Charles Ambrose (Colin Farrell), and understand why he is several steps ahead of the team pursuing him. You see, he happens to be a clairvoyant too! Farrell’s entry into the story does little to perk up this mind-numbingly boring film, and the big reveal that spells out why Ambrose has been murdering all those people is a big laugh. Turns out Solace has been chasing serious philosophical questions about God and religion. To say that its reach exceeds its grasp is an insult to reaches, and grasps.
Hopkins and Farrell ultimately try to out-clairvoyant each other, a climax that may have succeeded had Poyart employed a slightly lighter touch. But there unfortunately isn’t much solace to find in the acting talent on display here. I desperately waited for Hopkins to finally lose it on Farrell, and eat his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. (Another spoiler: He doesn’t.)