Rather ironic that Nicolas Cage’s latest is named “Seeking Justice”, since that’s what most of us have been beseeching after having to endure the fallen greats latest barrage of blah (”Ghost Rider”, ”Trespass”, ”The Wicker Man”, “Season of the Witch” et al). But since we’re doing like Ron Kovic on the battlefields of Nam, and keep coming back for more, Cage’s unlikely to feel any need to get back to ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ territory anytime soon.
Cage’s latest is about as dumb as it’s insipid title (the original title was “Hungry Rabbit Jumps” — sounds a lot more intriguing to me; the replacement title sounds like a film Steven Seagal should be fronting) but ya know, I’m ashamed to say, knowing full-well what a hokey pic it is, it’s also entertaining (You can’t say that about too many of Elvis’s former son-in-law’s films these days, can you?) .
Sort-of a watered-down version of “Death Wish” by way of “The Game”, but with the clichés and cartoonish hero kept in, “Justice” comes from Roger Donaldson, the Ballarat-born filmmaker whose studio efforts are usually slick, fun and well-cast but usually lack grit or originality.
Robert Tannen’s screenplay sees a teacher, Will Gerard (Cage) reluctantly enlisting the help of a private ‘revenge’ service when his beautiful wife, Laura (January Jones) is raped and left for dead.
While sitting, justifiably shaken like a cartoned milkshake, in the hospital waiting room where his beaten wife lies, Will is approached by a snazzily-dressed stranger (Guy Pearce) who offers to help take out the man responsible for the crime against Will’s wife.
Being so angry and forlorn, Will reluctantly accepts the offer.
But in exchange for doing the dirty deed for Will, the mysterious ‘Simon’ requests his latest client does the same for him – and kill a criminal.
Before he knows it Will is an involuntary member of an organization that deals with removing (who Simon deems) scum from the streets.
“Seeking Justice” isn’t anywhere near as good as Donaldson’s “No Way Out” (1987), in which Kevin Costner humped Sean Young in the back of a limo, it’s not even on the same level as “Species” (1995), in which Natasha Henstridge got her antennas out in a Smokey spa, but it’s not half bad either. And yes, there’s some saucy stuff in it — pause button ready January fans!
In the same way that Aussie Bryan Brown’s involvement in Donaldson’s flashy “Cocktail” (1988) pushed it beyond simply fluff, the director’s anointment of fellow countryman Guy Pearce as this film’s villain near saves it from the direct-to-bargain-bin future it’ll spend most of its years at.
As the rogue, former Ramsay Street boy Pearce is compelling. Sure, it’s a one-dimensional character, but the always-solid thesp (who seems to be taking on more and more of these Hollywood jobs these days; the bills must be piling
up) really gets into it, trying to give audiences someone to question, fear and root against. it’s a nifty performance from Pearce.
Unfortunately, Pearce is probably only in about a quarter of the movie and the rest of the time we’re left watching Cage phone-in another of his ‘common Joe caught up in a terrible situation’ performances.
Look, Cage is adequate here, but he definitely doesn’t try to do anything different. He’s gotten lazy, and seems content with just letting his escalating voice volume and stone-faced close-ups carry the weight.
January Jones, so good on “Mad Men”, seems to follow suit; she’s – just as Henstridge was in Donaldson’s “Species” or Kelly Lynch was in the filmmaker’s “Cocktail” – the scenery.. And that’s about it. Though in the blonde beauty’s defence, there’s not a lot for her to do here besides lay in a hospital bed or look puzzled.
I think, besides Pearce, Donaldson helps the film rise slightly above the usual Nic Cage fluff. Donaldson’s experience doing these kinds of fairy-floss efforts (“The Recruit” comes to mind) helps it play much better than it should. But again, it’s really only worth visiting to see ‘Mike from Neighbours’ play one helluva bad guy. Someone get Guy Pearce a homicidal maniac role and quick!
“Seeking Justice” is now showing in the U.K, Italy, Ireland, Denmark, Hong Kong, and Russia, among territories. It commenced in Mexico cinemas on January 13. Opens nationwide in America on March 16.