[Review] – Seeking Justice

17 Apr

Title: Seeking Justice
Year: 2012
Director: Roger Donaldson
Writer: Robert Tannen, based on a story by himself and Todd Hickey
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Guy Pearce, January Jones, Jennifer Carpenter
MPAA Rating: R, violence,  language and brief sexuality
Runtime: 105 min
IMDb Rating: 6.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 25%
Metacritic: 38

Ah, Nicolas Cage, we meet again. It was just a couple of months ago when I reviewed the actor in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, his second go at that superhero franchise which I gave a C to. I opened my review for that film with a couple of paragraphs that tried to explain my feelings toward Mr. Cage as an actor these days, who had that 2003 (post-Matchstick Men) to 2009 (pre-The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans) period in which he only appeared in really bad movies giving some really phoned in performances. That era in his career has grown to define him to some extent nowadays as this really loud actor who’s very easy to make fun of.

That assessment of Mr. Cage is, unfortunate as it may be, quite accurate, actually. So I’ve come to appreciate his acting style, thinking that it can grow to give us some great performances, like the one in The Bad Lieutenant, or, at the very least, go the so-bad-it-becomes-good route, like his over-the-top role in last year’s Drive Angry, which was so campy it ended up being quite enjoyable (I gave that film a B+). Well, the actor’s latest, Seeking Justice, is just a plain bad film that’s really generic in everything it does, and yes, it counts with an exaggerated crappy performance by Nicolas Cage.

This is the kind of film that makes me think maybe it’s dumb of me to keep defending Nicolas Cage as a guy who went through a bad patch but is capable of delivering some great, though admittedly uneven, performances. Here there’s pretty much nothing redeemable about his performance as Will Gerard, an English teacher who’s wife Laura, played by January Jones, gets beaten up and raped one night. Will is, of course, infuriated about the incident, and worst of all he’s convinced that the crappy New Orleans justice system won’t be effective whatsoever in dealing with the perp.

Enter Simon, the mysterious man played by Guy Pearce who approaches Will as he’s at the hospital waiting to hear about his wife’s condition. Simon says he’s part of an organization that “deals” with people, an organization that’s “seeking justice”, and he’s willing to have a stranger exact said justice upon Laura’s attacker if Will agrees to do a favor for him in the near future. A deal which Will agrees to, which puts him front and center of this underground vigilante operation and that, as he tries to keep the truth from Laura, will see him getting deeper and deeper into a sort of conspiracy with pretty dangerous implications.

Nothing about this film stands out in any way; it’s just so bland and unoriginal that it would be better off in a straight-to-video shelf, especially with the horrible generic title it carries. Director Roger Donaldson, who had last done the very-good The Bank Job in 2008, has no control whatsoever in the build-up of this whole thing. There are a couple of early scenes when the whole thing’s just starting to get going that do create a nice feeling of suspense, but then we start getting all these crappy scenes that never once add up. There’s a whole conspiracy apparently going on here, but we never get any real answers as to their role in Will’s fate, nor as to why Will is so desperately needed by them. It’s just one implausible sequence after the other, and far too much fuss made over a middle-aged English teacher with ridiculous facial hair.

Of course the movie actually benefits from having Nicolas Cage in the lead role. No other actor could have been this game for this whole thing, he’s actually trying here, being and looking as intense as only Nicolas Cage can look, magically giving his English teacher the moves and athleticism of a spy once the stakes are upped. But that’s another thing that’s just horribly wrong in Seeking Justice; there are no stakes. The film just feels like it drags along throughout its entire running time, never once building any kind of momentum and delivering twists and turns that are just preposterously weak; it’s a thriller with no thrills, and one that uses something as serious as rape as a cheap excuse to deliver a really dumb movie, which makes it all even worse.

I was one of those guys that stood up for Nicolas Cage when people discarded him completely. When he’s really good he’s great, and when he’s really bad he’s also great; but I think I’m going to have to stop rooting for a guy who more often than not right now is just plain boring when he’s on-screen, because even his over-the-top schtick has just become crappy when it’s happening in these sort of films. He has a couple more films lined up for this year, but they don’t look promising at all, so it’s looking like we’ll have to wait until next year for him to be great again when he’s set to appear in Charlie Kaufman‘s next directorial effort which I couldn’t be more excited about. But yes, right now what we have to judge him by is Seeking Justice, and it really does suck.

Grade: D+

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