"High Adventure, High Mystery"
Puzzles are a major pastime in American culture. People love clues and mysteries, and many companies rely on this love of puzzles to sell entertainment (games, video games, books, etc.). Director Xandy Smith’s new movie SOLVER uses puzzles to drive a complicated plot that involves government conspiracy and a series of obscure clues.
Luke Williams is a successful New York businessman. He and his partner are on the verge of a huge sale when Luke’s grandfather suddenly dies. Luke travels to his grandfather’s small cabin in a small town, where he discovers a series of obscure clues left by his grandfather. With the help of a local mechanic, Luke follows the clues and uncovers a huge conspiracy with world-ending ramifications involving a mind-control machine and an evil corporation.
Smith’s direction is clean and clear, and she does a capable job of weaving a dense story into a fun, engaging movie. However, screenwriter Jack Kelley has constructed an overly complicated script that’s hard to follow in several places. The mystery Luke Williams must uncover has fingers in government conspiracy, private business, historic events, and Luke’s own private relationships. All these various plot elements are only loosely related, and it takes the whole movie for a viewer to piece together how the puzzle fits. Still, some of Kelley’s scene-level work in dialogue and character growth is impressive.
Like many great puzzle-movie before it, each scene of SOLVER brings new insight and keeps the plot moving forward. Unlike great puzzle movies, however, the clues in this movie are obscure and unsolvable by the audience. Part of the fun of mysteries is trying to guess what’s coming and figure it out ahead of the characters. That isn’t possible in SOLVER, to the movie’s detriment.
Strong performances by John Ruby and Kerry Knuppe help to balance out some of the movie’s weaker elements. Also, the supporting cast in SOLVER rivals any Hollywood blockbuster.
Mystery movies are very plot-focused and rarely try to say large things about humanity or the world. Their focus is on the mystery itself. SOLVER isn’t different. It’s worldview elements are mild at best. Some moral elements (like love for family, respectful dating relationships, and doing the right thing) are counterbalanced by a subtle materialistic worldview where the present moment, individual choice, and personal comfort are the driving priorities. Again, however, this isn’t distinct from the mystery genre in general. SOLVER also contains some light anti-capitalist elements pertaining to an evil corporation.
There is some violence throughout the movie, including several fistfights and a few murders. These elements aren’t graphic but are a feature of the plot. Alcohol use exists throughout the plot, with characters enjoying some beer and liquor. SOLVER also has brief foul language. Because of these elements, MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for younger and some older children.
In SOLVER, Screenwriter Jack Kelley and Director Xandy Smith invite viewers to play an exciting game of puzzles. Luke Williams is a successful New York businessman. When his grandfather dies, Luke travels to the small cabin where his grandfather has left a remarkable surprise: obscure clues, a series of puzzles, and a secret plot form the pieces of a grand adventure. Luke stumbles on clues left by his grandfather and must solve a dense mystery before an evil corporation can get to him.
Kelley and Smith have worked together to create a fun and interesting adventure movie. They occasionally struggle to lead the audience through a complicated plot. Strong performances by John Ruby and Kerry Knuppe bring some energy to the slower scenes. SOLVER is a moral contest pitting good against evil. Many of the antagonist, “evil” characters prosper, however, because of their moral relativism and materialism. Also, even celebrated characters sometimes exhibit negative traits. Other materialist elements are only slightly balanced by occasional moral points. Brief foul language, violence, and alcohol use in SOLVER warrant caution for younger and older children.