D: Afonso Poyart / 101m
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Abbie Cornish, Colin Farrell, Xander Berkeley, Marley Shelton, Janine Turner, Kenny Johnson, Sharon Lawrence
Solace is one of those movies. You know, a movie that dares you not to laugh at the absurdity of it all. It’s a movie that acknowledges the idea of credibility and then tramples all over it with big hob-nailed boots on. It’s so consistently bad that there’s no getting over just how awful it is. And it just goes to show that, sometimes, actors definitely go for the pay cheque rather than the artistic challenge (not that there is one here, unless you count keeping a straight face when the movie gets really silly).
But in amongst all the terrible dialogue and horrible acting, there are lessons to be learnt from Sean Bailey and Ted Griffin’s script, lessons that could prove invaluable if you’ve a mind to write your own serial killer thriller. Here are ten pointers toward making that movie a success.
1 – Always give your central protagonist – here Hopkins’ psychic John Clancy – a heartrending backstory that will have no relevance at all until the final scene, when you can reveal a dark secret that sheds new light on the character and his/her motivations (but which will be redundant in terms of the drama).
2 – If your central character is a psychic it’s important to keep moving the goalposts in terms of what triggers his/her visions. Start off with being touched by others, then move on to have them be practically all-seeing all by themselves.
3 – If your villain is another psychic with advanced “powers”, don’t forget to make sure that, in the end, he/she is no match for your central character, and can be easily defeated, despite having a talent for seeing every outcome of every situation ahead of time.
4 – If you have to involve the police or Federal authorities, then make sure that those characters are at odds with each other in terms of their beliefs; one should be totally behind your psychic hero, while the other should doubt their abilities, and say so more than once.
5 – If you have an agent or policeman who doubts the psychic’s abilities then you should definitely include a scene where their history is laid bare with as much detail as possible, and which should be upsetting for them to hear. (This will ensure that the audience is completely impressed with the psychic’s powers.)
6 – It’s very important that your villain should be able to kill on more than one occasion and never leave any DNA or other forensic evidence at any of the crime scenes. This will make him/her seem invincible/uncatchable until it’s time for them to be defeated with ease by the psychic hero.
7 – Always ensure your psychic hero gets to upstage their police partners by making educated guesses that they can pass off as benefits of their psychic abilities. This will be important when the narrative takes a wrong turn or gets bogged down by its own implausibilities.
8 – When deciding on the killer’s motivations, it’s always best to make them sound like they’re acting with the best of (misguided) intentions. But always be sure to translate those motivations into the kind of dialogue that even the most talented actor couldn’t make convincing.
9 – Never ever insult your audience by including a scene where the psychic refuses to help the authorities because of past traumas. Everyone knows they’ll take the case, and everyone knows their reason for doing so is completely irrelevant (if it’s mentioned at all).
10 – Be sure to include several “psychic montages” that comprise shots and short clips from the rest of the movie interspersed with other, abstract images that have no relevance to the story at all (but which look pretty or ominous). Feel free also to include shots that feature the characters but which don’t actually occur anywhere else in the movie; get away with this by saying these shots are “interpretive”.
Oh, and if you can, get Anthony Hopkins to play your psychic hero. He doesn’t seem to mind what roles he takes on these days.
Rating: 3/10 – originally shot in 2013 and shelved by Warner Bros until it was picked up for distribution by troubled Relativity Media, Solace is a dreadful thriller that deserves to be locked up and never seen again; the cast are wasted, the direction is ham-fisted, and the script refuses to make any sense whatsoever, leaving the viewer with only one option – and you don’t have to be psychic to work out what that is.