Directed by: Alfonso Poyart
Run time: 101 minutes
The Lowdown: More than 20 years ago, director David Fincher and writer Andrew Kevin Walker unveiled their groundbreaking vision, Se7en, which launched decades of serial killer copycat thrillers and catapulted Brad Pitt into the A-list stratosphere.
Se7en – truth be told – is tied for BVB’s favorite film of all time. It’s honestly one of the most perfect genre movies ever made. There is barely a beat that should be changed. The script is superb, the acting flawless and the reveal – oh man, that damn reveal – at the end immediately earned its place in pop culture lore.
Thankfully, they never made a sequel to Se7en.
Funny, then, when perusing the internet for information about this week’s featured release, Solace, it just so happens that Solace originally was planned to be a sequel to Fincher’s masterpiece. And, depending on the veracity of online movie news websites, it once had the awful fortune of being titled Ei8ht.
Per the online mining expedition, it seems as if Solace originally was viewed as a vehicle to re-introduce Morgan Freeman’s Det. Somerset, who begins to form a psychic connection to a new serial killer. Whether fact or fiction, some websites even say that the killer would have eventually been revealed to be David Mills (Pitt’s character who goes crazy after John Doe chops off his wife’s head and has it hand-delivered to him).
I love Se7en so much that it would be next to impossible for me to get behind a sequel of any sort, but this particular outline seems predisposed to go so wrong so fast it could ultimately tarnish the original’s indelible mark on cinema.
Having now watched Solace, I think it’s fair to say that cooler heads definitely prevailed.
But it’s hard not to consider what could have been while absorbing this extremely disjointed, but at times fascinating, thriller, which pits Anthony Hopkins against Colin Farrell in a psychic cat-and-mouse, race against time fight to the mental finish.
Solace has all the pieces it needs to be an above-average serial killer thriller – nowhere on par with Se7en, but definitely better than Copycat or The Bone Collector or even Zodiac.
It’s got a great cast with Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Abbie Cornish, and both Hopkins and Farrell seem to be having fun playing psychic combatants, particularly Farrell, whose Charles Ambrose is the bad guy equivalent of Professor X. He sees all and knows all, and he delights in tormenting Hopkins’ Dr. John Clancy.
If it had stuck to being a straight-forward thriller, Solace could have been a hoot.
But every time it gains momentum, it lets off the gas long enough to allow Hopkins a lengthy soliloquy (such as when he admonishes Cornish’s FBI Agent Katherine Cowles in a not-quite quid-pro-quo Hannibal Lecter way, tossing off psychic bon mots about her past and present) or to revisit an unnecessary subplot, such as the death of Clancy’s daughter, which drove him into isolation for years.
It’s those downturn moments that zap Solace of any genre joy, and ultimately frustrate the viewer because not every character needs the motivation of a dead loved one to thrust them back into action.
Sometimes all you need is a formidable antagonist, which Ambrose absolutely is.
Farrell gets to have all the fun throughout the film. So much so, that you shouldn’t be surprised to be secretly wishing he might win the psychic war, if only to preserve an opportunity to see the character in a better thriller without so much psychological (and thematic) baggage weighing the rest of the movie down.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Abbie Cornish, super hot.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Minimal.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Colin Farrell.
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
Ghost in the Shell: Limited Steelbook (Starz/Anchor Bay, 83 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Before the anticipated backlash to the live-action adaptation of the cult-classic Japanese manga, here’s your chance to see how it all began with an unbelievably cool collector’s edition of director Mamoru Oshii’s animated epic. This is a must-own.
Tupac – Assassination: Battle for Compton
The Jetsons & WWE: Robo-Wrestlemania
Firestarter: Collector’s Edition
Red Dawn: Collector’s Edition
Now on Video-on-Demand:
Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word (Momentum Pictures, 95 minutes, Unrated, VOD): BVB loves director Simon Rumley. His 2010 masterpiece Red White & Blue is visceral genre cinema at its finest. Rumley didn’t write Johnny Frank Garrett’s Last Word, but his indelible style shows throughout. Based on a true story, the film has a gritty determined approach that suits its subject matter well. But it never elevates to must-see status. It’s a good thriller with some solid, unnerving sequences, but it’s not Rumley’s best. You should still check it out.
They Call Me Jeeg (Uncork’d Entertainment, 118 minutes, Unrated, VOD): What makes a hero “super”? What if someone undeserving of special abilities suddenly found themselves saddled with great responsibility?
Such deep thoughts and moral concepts imbue first-time feature director Gabriele Mainetti’s potent deconstruction of Hollywood’s caped-crusader craze.
They Call Me Jeeg is based on a Japanese anime and manga from the 1970s called Steel Jeeg about a giant robot hero. But that’s where the comparisons end. Instead of making a live-action version of the popular children’s show, Mainetti has instead wisely chosen to focus on a petty thief named Enzo who finds himself hiding underwater after botching a robbery where he runs afoul of some long-dormant barrels of radioactive waste. The exposure gifts him incredible powers – super strength and agility, plus he can’t die.
Enzo could care less. He goes back to his sheltered existence and squalid apartment where he binges porn, chain smokes and gets drunk. Not your typical superhero qualities.
Enzo’s life and purpose takes a turn when some bad guys show up and rough up a woman in his apartment building who has serious issues after being sexually assaulted for years. When Enzo reluctantly steps in to save her, she immediately calls him Jeeg after the popular hero character.
Mainetti’s film shattered box office records in Italy, and it’s clear why. He deftly navigates traditional “superhero” tropes without ever giving over to their pull. Enzo is a complex, conflicted character who slowly gains purpose. He doesn’t have an epiphany. He isn’t coaxed to be a hero by some treacly cute kid. He begrudgingly accepts the mantle because, why not? It’s not like he has anything better to do.
Fans who love M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable will eat this up. It’s the perfect antihero antidote to many of the undercooked comic book movies currently being released.