Wednesday, July 4, 2012

DVD Review: Seeking Justice

Seeking Justice
Directed by: Roger Donaldson.
Written by: Todd Hickey & Robert Tannen.
Starring: Nicolas Cage (Will Gerard), January Jones (Laura Gerard), Guy Pearce (Simon), Jennifer Carpenter (Trudy), Harold Perrineau, (Jimmy), Xander Berkeley (Lieutenant Durgan), IronE Singleton (Scar), Jason Davis (Leon Walczak / Alan Marsh).

I have defended Nicolas Cage many times over the years, all the while admitting many of his movies are absolutely awful. I defend him because when he gets the right role – like Wild at Heart, Leaving Las Vegas, Bringing Out the Dead, Adaptation, Lord of War, The Weatherman, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans or even something as cheesy as Drive Angry, he delivers the kind of manic, over the top brilliant performance that no other actor can give. The problem is he gives manic, over the top performances all the time – in horrible movies, or movies in which that type of performance just doesn’t make any damn sense. But Cage, even when he’s awful or in an awful movie, is almost always at least entertaining and interesting. I’m never really bored watching a Nicolas Cage movie. But bored I was while watching Seeking Justice. Cage does what everyone else always seems to be telling him to do – dial down the manic energy. And I have to admit, I would have preferred the manic energy. At least it would have added some interest to this boring, by the numbers thriller.

Cage stars as Will Gerard, a high school teacher working with high risk kids. He is married to Laura (January Jones), a musician, who is brutally attacked and raped one night. While waiting at the hospital, he is approached by a strange man named Simon (Guy Pearce). He tells him that not only does he knows how raped his wife; he can have “taken care of” for him. All the ask in return is that they do him, and his group, a favor in return one day – nothing major, just making a phone call or dropping off a package. Of course, when he agrees to Simon’s deal, and he eventually comes calling for that favor, it’s not that simple – they want him to kill someone. And when he refuses, he becomes a target of the group himself – which of course, has a wider reach than he thought possible.

The film is directed by Roger Donaldson, who has made some good thrillers in the past – such as No Way Out, 13 Days and The Recruit. Here, he is undone by a screenplay that is simply going through the motions. The basic idea behind the film is, of course, ridiculous – but that doesn’t mean that as a movie it couldn’t have worked – most thrillers have a rather stupid plot, but they work because they help us suspend disbelief. The problem with Seeking Justice is that once it comes up with the basic plot, it never thinks of anything interesting to do with it – each twist and turn the movie takes is pretty much exactly what you would expect.

I have a feeling that everyone involved in the movie knew that it was a fairly standard thriller, and as a result everyone is going through the motions. Donaldson has been an expert at building suspense in the past, but here he doesn’t seem to try very hard. The same is true of almost everyone in the cast – especially January Jones, who the more movies I see her in, the more I suspect that she really, really cannot act. Other talented TV actors – Jennifer Carpenter, Harold Perrineau, Xander Berkeley and IronE Singleton show up in supporting roles, but are given nothing to do. For once, Cage seems to playing his role straight – after all, he is supposed to be a mild mannered teacher forced to try and prove his innocence (see, the setup could easily have made a good Hitchcock film), but weather he’s grieving, teaching, comforting, chasing or fighting, his pulse never seems to be raised. You never really buy him as an everyman. The only redeeming performance is by Pearce, who makes no attempt to try and play Simon as a realistic bad guy, but revels in his insane evil. It is the type of role, strangely, that Cage would be great in.
In short, Seeking Justice is a forgettable thriller, featuring a forgettable lead performance by Nicolas Cage. That in itself is a rarity – but not the good kind.

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