REVIEW: Solace (15) **

Sir Anthony Hopkins stars in Solace. PA Photo/Entertainment Film/Blake Tyers
Sir Anthony Hopkins stars in Solace. PA Photo/Entertainment Film/Blake Tyers

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The only solace that thrill-starved audiences could take from Afonso Poyart’s formulaic hunt for a diabolical serial killer is a sub-two hour running time and some restrained scenery chewing from Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Unusually, the Oscar-winning Welsh actor, who sent chills down the spine as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence Of The Lambs, helps the FBI with their enquiries here rather than leading the police on a merry, blood-spattered dance.

Instead, Colin Farrell sinks his teeth into the film’s two-dimensional antagonist, whose wonky moral compass provides a perfect excuse to slay victims every time the pacing begins to drag.

Scriptwriters Sean Bailey and Ted Griffin steep the mind games in supernatural hokum, blessing men on both sides of the police investigation with psychic abilities, resulting in disorienting images of future events.

These flash-forwards are intentionally fragmented, but audiences won’t need to possess powers of clairvoyance to second guess the twists.

Poyart flags up each kink in the narrative so brazenly that the sole genuine surprise is how long it takes the authorities to catch up with our logical reasoning and their perpetrator.

Colin Farrell sinks his teeth into the film’s two-dimensional antagonist

John Clancy (Hopkins) is a retired medic and civilian analyst, who has become a recluse since the death of his daughter Emma (Autumn Dial).

Now separated from his ex-wife Katherine (Janine Turner), he has turned his back on his powers of precognition.

Out of the blue, former FBI colleague Joe Merriwether (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his partner Katherine Cowles (Abbie Cornish) approach Clancy to help them hunt a serial killer, who is targeting seemingly random men, women and children.

‘I got the super-duper, deluxe edition of what people now call intuition,’ Clancy explains to Cowles, who is initially sceptical of the medic’s gift.

She is dumbfounded when Clancy deduces the link between the victims and helps them to edge closer to the perpetrator, Charles Ambrose (Farrell).

Complicating matters, Ambrose also has psychic abilities, which far outstrip Clancy.

A tense game of cat and mouse plays out between the killer and his pursuers.

‘It’s a trap,’ warns Clancy, glimpsing the dangers ahead. ‘He’s way ahead of us and we’re doing exactly what he wants us to do.’

Solace is blessed with a solid opening half that lures Hopkins’ wise old coot out of retirement in pursuit of a wily nemesis.

Once the method behind the killer’s madness is revealed, it’s evident where the film is going and Poyart dutifully heads there with the minimum of fuss and few pulse-quickening set pieces.

Morgan and Cornish are both short-changed as ballsy cops, who harbour painful secrets, while Farrell remains largely off screen until the anticlimactic, mind-bending final showdown.