No 'Solace' To Be Found In This Mundane Psychic-Meets-Serial-Killer Flick

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Colin Ferrell plays Charles Ambrose in <em>Solace,</em> a film by Brazilian director Afonso Poyart.

Finally getting a U.S. release after two years in bad-movie jail, Solace is a routine serial-killer flick accessorized with paranormal silliness. So why are Anthony Hopkins, Colin Farrell, and Abbie Cornish here? And where the heck are they?

Hopkins' presence can be explained. He's an executive producer of the thriller, which he likely expected to emerge as a reasonable facsimile of The Silence of the Lambs. His John Clancy is a hero, not a cannibal, but he's eerie and affected in the Hannibal Lecter manner. And he's playing off a pretty young FBI agent — Cornish's Katherine Cowles — whose mind he gets to mess with, much as Lecter reached into the skull of Jodie Foster's Clarice Starling.

Clancy is retired and reclusive since his daughter's untimely death. He's disinclined to return to sleuthing when his former colleague, severely hard-boiled Joe Merriwether (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), arrives with a new partner, Cowles. But tracking evildoers is simple for Clancy, since he's clairvoyant. (In a pinch, he even dispenses psychic driving tips.) Clancy's deductive ease makes the rest of the FBI seem sort of redundant.

Solace is set in an unidentified city, which is fine, but what makes it especially strange is that the whole country feels unfamiliar. None of the three central actors employs a convincing American accent. And while much of the film was shot in Atlanta, some of the exteriors were photographed in director Afonso Poyart's native Brazil.

This is problematic, since the movie's strategy is to shift, suddenly and portentously, from mundane police work to feverish visions. (The blood, crosses, and quick cuts suggest a goth-rock video, although the score is electro-throb composed by L.A.'s BT.) Since even the movie's most prosaic moments seem foreign, the uncanniness of these psycho-candy reveries is significantly undercut.

If Solace lacks a credible sense of place, its time period is equally elusive. The script, credited to Sean Bailey and Ted Griffin but reportedly doctored by several others, is about 15 years old. This explains such scenes as the one where Clancy warns the others to avoid a murder victim's blood. He intuits that she's HIV-positive, a condition that won't alarm viewers the way it once might have.

Did the unfaithful husband who infected her also kill her? That would be too ordinary. The movie is called Solace because its principal murderer (Farrell, entering halfway through with a stagey performance) slays people who are about to die anyway. His calling is euthanasia, not psychosexual mayhem.

The murders aren't always consoling, though, since he sometimes kills people who don't know they're doomed. And there are loads of people on the edge of oblivion. As in the equally ridiculous Collateral Beauty, in Solace there's always somebody with stage IV cancer right around the corner.

One other thing about the self-appointed executioner: He's psychic, too. Clancy determines that his prey's mojo is greater than his own, and is ready to quit the case. The murderer, of course, is certain that he and his pursuer have a lot in common.

This affinity is a cliche of cop-meets-evil flicks, as expected as the way Poyart spins his camera around the characters. A set-in-the-U.S.A. movie whose location is partly Sao Paulo has to be a little disorienting. But Solace's psychological glibness is all-American.

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