I am the world’s biggest Nicolas Cage defender. I am game for anything he wants to do and the crazier the better. I’ll go with a borderline straight to video movie. In fact I welcome it if it lets him go crazy. Well, Seeking Justice is not the new Mecca in Cage’s oeuvre.
The potential is there. Will Gerard (Cage) is a mild schoolteacher in port of call New Orleans whose wife (January Jones) is raped. In the hospital, a mysterious stranger Simon (Guy Pearce) offers to kill the rapist if Will will agree to a favor later. This is where there needs to be a shot of Will raising his fists looking up to the sky screaming “JUSTIIIIIIICE!” as the camera pulls up, but the movie doesn’t go there.
With the rapist dead and the Gerards putting their relationship back together, Simon starts calling in his chits. Will is left running around delivering mysterious letters and answering cell phone calls. This is a pretty silly system for vigilante justice but I still wanted to see where it went.
With such a standard genre piece, the only place to go is crazy. There are certainly hints early on. Will takes his wife to a dance club, gyrates in a Mardi Gras mask, throwing beads and howling with odd Cagey enunciation. And that’s it. Will doesn’t even really freak out when things get intense. The camera tilts a little but Cage doesn’t let loose. He gets a bit violent with his high school students but nothing that pushes him over the edge of reason.
The film just meanders in the convoluted plot of Simon’s secret vigilante squad. There’s some minor action. A foot chase on the freeway is a good idea, but it seems like a few big stunts are just cut into the establishing shots. A shootout in an abandoned mall should be cool. Will’s English teaching actually pays off when he corrects someone’s capitalization in a hyphenate. I was just waiting for him to do the whole alphabet. Come on, do it!
I do applaud the movie for using the R-word. The rape itself is done Hollywood style so it’s not graphic exploitation, but every character calls it a rape. They don’t dance around it and pretend it’s just an “assault” or something. So it’s mature enough to be what it is actually about, but unfortunately it doesn’t go anywhere.
Jones actually shows some range. She’s actually lively and happy before the attack, and even comes back to life when she thinks she’s got her life back. I didn’t quite buy her lying in a hospital bed with bruises all over her face, but we’re making progress from Unknown and X-Men: First Class. (I love January Jones. Just let her have her fun. She’s lovely; she’s not hurting anyone’s movies.)
Seeking Justice is a solidly made Hollywood movie. It’s only circumstance that’s putting it out on video with an obligatory theatrical release, but it was made with professional camerawork and acting (albeit subdued, it is a reasonable performance.) It’s just a horrible script. Seeking Justice made me really appreciate how much fun Trespass was.