Over the last few years, Nicholas Cage has been transformed from a talented Academy Award winning actor into an internet meme-generating caricature of himself. This was mainly due to some horrible script choices, flipped out performances and a head of hair that I am convinced is playing host to at least one poltergeist, and possibly a family of squirrels.
Because of this, I went into Cage’s latest movie, Seeking Justice, with expectations so low that they may as well be subterranean… And ended up being pleasantly surprised.
Seeking Justice sees Cage as Will Gerard, a High School English teacher whose musician wife Laura (January Jones) is violently raped after a rehearsal, by a previously paroled rapist. While at the hospital after the incident, Gerard is approached by the mysterious Simon (Guy Pearce), who offers him a deal: Instead of relying on the already failed justice system, Simon – and the clandestine organisation of “concerned citizens” that he represents – can permanently “get rid of” the rapist that very same night. All they want in exchange is a small favour at some undisclosed point in the future. Gerard, driven by his still raw emotions, agrees without much thought for the consequences. When the time comes for him to hold up his side of the bargain, it’s an innocent enough task, but soon events spiral out of control and he finds himself caught in a confluence of murder, corruption and conspiracies.
It’s an intriguing premise and one that any person who has ever been affected by violent crime would probably give strong consideration to. Some of the film’s strongest scenes is when it delves into the means by which this shady organization accomplishes it’s vigilante justice. It takes the faceless and remorseless killers of so many other films and transforms them into ordinary men and women, who have simply been driven to extreme means through bad circumstance. I do feel that the film would have been stronger if more of this angle was shown.
Unfortunately, the script also gets dragged down in a few places by some annoying plot holes. In one such instance, Gerard has an argument with his wife because he does not want to tell her about what’s really happening, yet an exceedingly convenient cover story is staring him right in the face. All dramatic tension in the scene was lost the moment I realized it, which took just all of 2 seconds. The most prevalent plot hole of course, is just how this clandestine group could have remained secret for so long. The moment you begin thinking about it in earnest, you realize that with the exception of one case, they certainly don’t appear to be making any concerted effort at covering their tracks, and even with their myriad connections, there is no way that people could not have heard of them before. But I guess dramatic effect wins out over plausibility in this instance.
Nicholas Cage gives an unexpectedly subdued performance as Gerard, even reigning it in in scenes that you would expect him to show off his trademarked special brand of crazy. There’s always been something almost physically clumsy about Cage (he runs as if he is only in control of his upper body, while some other drunk celestial puppeteer is operating his legs), that has resulted in me never truly buying him as a badass action hero, and in this film’s action sequences he still seems as physically inept and floundering as ever. But here though, it fits perfectly with his everyman character. He’s just an ordinary guy, caught in an extraordinary situation.
As the enigmatic antagonist, Simon, Guy Pearce is equal parts chilling and charming, dishing out veiled threats with a sardonic sneer. The only misstep is January Jones, an actress I’ve unfortunately never been impressed with. I always find her to appear devoid of emotion, like an automaton in a blonde wig. In a role that requires some emotional complexity, she simply deadpans her way though it. I think she’s walking proof that the “uncanny valley” doesn’t just apply to computer rendered characters.
Roger Donaldson occupies the director’s chair and based on his past record (The Bounty, Dante’s Peak, Thirteen Days, The Recruit, The Bank Job) I expected a directorial style with a bit more character but instead he keeps it very straightforward. This is especially evident when the film’s pace picks up in certain scenes, and the lackluster direction transforms it from a knife-edged psychological thriller to a paint-by-numbers action film. It’s certainly not horrible direction, it just lacks any standout flair.
The film’s measured early pace also makes it feel much longer than it’s advertised 105 mins. I appreciated its initial slow burn approach, but this may be off-putting for some.
In short, Seeking Justice is a decent but flawed thriller with an interesting premise that posits exactly how far you are willing to go to correct an injustice. This is certainly not the best film on circuit now, but it is a far cry from the campy, B-Grade cheesefests that Cage has been churning out lately. Is this a must see? Well frankly,no. But if you have an hour and a half to spare, then I certainly wouldn’t stop you from giving it a watch. Especially since this may be the last time you see an even remotely sane Nicholas Cage before he crazies himself up again for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.
Last Updated: February 2, 2012