Solace revolves around easy going FBI agent Joe Merriwether (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, The Walking Dead) and his wound up partner Katherine Cowles (Abbie Cornish, Limitless and Seven Psychopaths) who are being mystified by a serial killer already on his third victim. The bodies are all found tastefully murdered by an unknown weapon that causes no pain to the victim and leaves the corpses casket-sharp.
After being frustrated by the fact that he is coming up empty on leads and suspects, Agent Merriwether decides to enlist the help of his old friend Dr. John Clancy (played by Sir Anthony Hopkins, most recently seen in TV’s Westworld but also known as Hannibal himself once upon a time). Clancy is a psychic who has helped the FBI in the past, but who is also haunted by horrific visions, along with the untimely death of his daughter. Together, Agents Merriwether and Cowles partner with Dr. Clancy in order to track down the mysterious serial killer.
First of all, Solace does a lot right. Many of its key sequences are well put together, the story moves along at a pretty decent speed, and the psychic visions are captured beautifully, left cryptic, and do not overstay their welcome. Oftentimes when a film bills itself as having a “psychic” person in the plot the visions that they are subjected to are either Rob Zombie at his most masturbatory or Woody Allen at his least coherent – essentially either too graphic or too vague. However, Dr. Clancy’s visions are often beautiful nightmares, mixtures of joy, pain, and gore and no matter how many times you see them, they still take you aback.
Solace is not without flaws, however, many of which are glaringly apparent throughout. One of the biggest problems in Solace is the casting, besides Hopkins who delivers as he always does. All of Dr. Clancy’s scenes are fantastic and great fun – hell, Anthony Hopkins could win an Oscar playing a tuna can, so worrying about his character is a frivolous venture. However, as for Agent Merriwether and Agent Cowles, who should be called Agent Scowls, their performances are both pretty groan-worthy.
Merriwether is a chill dude with a cool attitude who is pushy towards Clancy getting involved in the case and while they’re working it, but simultaneously gives the doctor the space and respect he needs. For example, Merriwether makes it a point to drive several hours to convince Clancy to come join their case, pleads for about five minutes, takes a phone call, and then hands over the case, shrugs, and then tells him to call him. Overall, his character is likeable, sort of, but inconsistent and sometimes his inner machinations are hard to follow.
Then, there is Agent Scowls, who fits into every female FBI/cop/CIA/law enforcement officer role stereotype since The Silence of the Lambs. Agent Clarice Starling (played by Jodi Foster in that seminal movie, also coincidentally starring Sir Anthony Hopkins) was a phenomenal female law enforcement character that has understandably stood the test of time. She was the perfect mix of calm and collected as well as human and emotional.
However, ever since, TV shows and films, of varying quality, have had a hard time capturing that same magic and end up with either a dysfunctional mess who drinks herself to sleep or a cold, calculating she-tron. Agent Scowls is the latter. Not only does she do everything she is not supposed to do, she is surprisingly transparent. It’s easy to see past her tough exterior, which clearly hides her more human emotions. She constantly butts heads with Dr. Clancy in the beginning and not even in a playful, questioning his clairvoyance, kind of way but rather an obnoxious, brazen way that isn’t endearing or even funny and belies her professional standing.
I don’t blame either Morgan or Cornish for their lackluster performances. They clearly were selling what they were given in Solace and tried their best to make it believable for the story and the audience. I think the issue here is that their characters were not given enough depth or charisma and by the time the film had genuine moments, they felt hollow and empty. Of course I do not want to give anything away about the serial killer, but it is an interesting take to say the least. I am still not sure how I feel about it, but it is definitely something I have not seen before in terms of typical serial killer/cop murder movies.
Overall I think Solace started out with a good premise and skilled direction, but got lost somewhere in the sauce and was unable to shake off poor decision making on the part of almost everyone involved. If you are uninterested in true crime, serial killers, paranormal themes, or are not an Anthony Hopkins fan you can definitely skip this one. However, if you are in the mood for something different that may leave a bad taste in your mouth, check Solace out (or you could just watch a marathon of solo Anthony Hopkins fare instead).
Catch Solace out on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD beginning March 14, 2017.
WICKED RATING: 4/10
Director(s): Afonso Poyart
Writer(s): Sean Bailey, Ted Griffin
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Abbie Cornish
Studio/ Production Co: Eden Rock Media, FilmNation Entertainment, Flynn Picture Company
Release date: March 14, 2017
Length: 101 min