Solace Slips Through the Psychic Cracks

DATELINE:  Sensing Solution

solace

You may take some solace that brilliant movies often come as a surprise, unexpected gems of intelligence and deft acting. The paranormal thriller, Solace, with Anthony Hopkins and Colin Farrell may seem to be out of the slush pile of scripts.

The story features a psychic working for the FBI who hunts for a serial killer.

Don’t be fooled by the summary of the plot.

The film turns out to be a chess game with the Grim Reaper.

What can you say about a film that uses quotes from poet Gerard Manley Hopkins as a clue—and operatic lines as foreshadows?

Clairvoyance gives the director Afonso Poyart a chance to show his skills with quick edits and sharp images to display past and/or future as the case re  quires. Hopkins plays his character, Dr. Clancy, with low key stoicism, except in moments of revelation.

He is teamed with a psychologist, Agent Cowles, another FBI agent with disdain for the paranormal. Abbie Cornish as Cowles gives the story an equal opportunity dimension that works well.

There may be a bond between two psychics in this movie, but the real intriguing concept is an opportunity to open up metaphysical debate about mercy killing under the guise of a thriller.

Farrell enters the picture rather late in the plot, but his appearance provides a matchmate for Hopkins. Both had appeared together previously in the disastrous Alexander the Great. They saved the great stuff for this movie.

The picture has much more in common with The Sixth Sense than a crime melodrama, and it was offered to Bruce Willis (star of the other psychic movie) but he passed on this. No matter, the end product in Solace is striking and engrossing, using the occasional car chase and bloody scene to make its point.

Beginning with a dictionary definition of “solace” in the opening credits,  you will take great solace in discovering this movie.

Psychopathia Sexualis as Comedy

DATELINE: Movie Psychos

You could call it a shaggy dog story, but the movie is not a dog at all. We found it one of the most strikingly original movies from a major studio that we have seen.

All your favorite movie bad guys have lined up to lend a bit of the psycho ear, eyes, and nose to this warped comedy.

Seven Psychopaths outdoes one Psycho with the humor Hitchcock intended for his first psycho. This tale centers around a film writer (Colin Farrell) whose best friend Billy Bickle of the Travis Bickle family (Sam Rockwell). Farrell is writing a movie titled Seven Psychopaths, and their collaborative insider tales make up some of the story.

Of course, the term appropriate to the killers is sociopathic, not psychopathic, but who’s slicing, dicing and parsing words in this movie?

The real lynchpin of the movie is an adorable shih tzu owned by a psycho mobster (Woody Harrelson, of course) who goes berserk when the little doggy is dognapped. Billy Bickle and his collaborator (Christopher Walken) kidnap dogs of the rich and famous and return them several days later for large rewards.

This time the cute dog is the love of Harrelson’s life—and it’s mano-a-mano psychopath warfare when a real life serial killer of serial killers joins the mix to stir up the blood and guts.

The violence is clever and horrifyingly amusing with cameos by some notable actors as victims and perps.

We generally avoid movies about writers having writer’s block, but love movies about Hollywood’s behind-the-scenes shenanigans. In this stew, director (Martin McDonagh) puts the ingredients into a large crockpot and lets simmer.