Monday 12 December 2016

Solace (2016) - Movie Review

The plot: FBI agent Joe (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), working on a serial homicide case with no leads aside from a recurring M.O., asks his friend John (Anthony Hopkins), a psychic and former physician, to help him crack the case. As John helps in the investigation alongside Joe and his partner Katherine (Abbie Cornish), it seems that the killer in question may be more than they expected and, even with John’s involvement, still several steps ahead of them.

The cast list here is full of decent actors, but man, do they all seem to be on not-give-a-shit mode on this one. Dean Morgan is almost a footnote in this movie, constantly being kept out of the spotlight for Cornish and Hopkins, and even when the story gives him a chance to be more involved, it just leaves him off to the side. Hopkins just feels like he’s going through the motions, and pretty stupid motions at that as even he can’t make the sudden bouts of cowardice his character is given seem natural.

Cornish is just plain awful and pretty much a main reason why I point out actors who make their characters’ intelligence seem plausible through their performance, because Cornish is absolutely unconvincing as this calculating and methodical detective. Colin Farrell as the serial killer is kind of interesting, probably the only compelling actor in the entire film, but at the same time he’s kind of bland as morally ambiguous villains are concerned.

Well, this is easily the most annoyingly overproduced schlock I’ve seen in a while. I mean, this is the kind of bad production value five-car pileup that I usually expect out of a straight-to-DVD fare, not shit that gets a legitimate cinematic release. The cinematography is in full Zack Snyder mode with its incredibly awkward and frankly amateur zoom-ins, combined with an apparent inability to hold still for any length of time. The editing keeps inflicting these chaotic and seizure-inducing montages to depict John’s visions, except they only seem to be opaque and “mysterious” to the character having them. Put simply, this is not how you do cryptic exposition in a movie, especially when the fact that it keeps showing Farrell’s face makes a lot of the plot developments seem even dumber.

This isn’t helped by this inordinate fascination with slow-motion shots, particularly of water droplets, which I can only assume was done because it looks cool and literally no other reason. Then there’s the music done by EDM producer BT, who has done pretty good film soundtracks in the past like the Aileen Wuornos biopic Monster and one of the most underrated found footage movies ever Look, but here it simply fails to properly fit the mood of each scene. It’s all just too poppy for the supposed grittiness of the story.

The plot feels like a head-on collision between Se7en and the works of Thomas Harris, and one that must have resulted in head injuries because this is nowhere near as clever or as intriguing as those works. It tries to follow a similar grey morality motive for the killer, except it isn’t nearly as nuanced or as clever as it thinks it is. In fact, the majority of the intellect of the serial killer just comes from lazy writing that paints him as far smarter than the cops, but without any real evidence of it aside from convenience. The whole “putting them out of their misery” BS is what hacks think makes a morally dubious serial killer that can still be sided with to a degree, except not when that falls into HIV and suicidal depression because fuck you. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that this got warped in the re-write from an actual Se7en sequel into some kind of allegorical take on euthanasia. Yeah, maybe going with the whole absence of consent thing wasn't the best move, especially when the serial killer later tries to convert John to his way of thinking.

Not that that aspect matters that much, as this story is far more fixated on the psychic gimmick… and man oh man, does it fail to use it properly. John’s visions are meant to be shown as these vague seemingly-disconnected images, and yet they’re clear enough that certain key parts of the plot like who is the killer behind all this should be more than obvious to him. But no, he just picks and chooses which visions he understands and which ones he doesn't, resulting in a few cases where the ones that we are never shown end up being the ones that are the most useful in the case. Then we get into the killer's use of clairvoyance, which is fine but honestly looked far better when Nicholas Cage was doing it in Next. Regardless, I get the feeling that this kind of story really needs psychics because only they would be able to predict the utterly crap plot points that this film consistently pulls out of its arse.

All in all, this is a complete train wreck. The acting sucks, the writing sucks, the technical aspects of the film suck; it’s just bad on all fronts. It’s basically one degree of separation away from being a proper laughably bad movie, but then again, that’s just by my own estimation. This is bad but I can at least see some ironic entertainment value in its complete ineptitude.

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