Stars: Nicholas Cage, Guy Pearce, January Jones, Harold Perrineau, Jennifer Carpenter, Xander Berkeley, IronE Singleton and Jason Davis.
Writer: Robert Tannen.
Director: Roger Donaldson
Despite growing increasingly preposterous as the minutes tick by, Roger Donaldson’s Seeking Justice is still at the high-end of star Nicholas Cage’s recent output. Though the star struggles to entirely convince as an everyman character, Cage’s current career phase hits a sort-of high with this New Orleans-set potboiler; whatever Guy Pearce or January Jones saw in their characters on the page, however, does not translate to the screen.
Cage plays Will Gerrard, a committed high-school teacher whose life turns upside down when his beautiful wife Laura (Jones) is brutally raped. Whilst sitting out her ordeal in the hospital waiting room, Will is approached by Simon (Pearce), who offers to correct the injustice done to their world. All Will need do is promise to repay the debt at some further point.
When Wil turns the table on his vigilante foes, convenience and circumstance all fall in his favour as they are prone to do in the world of B-movie star-vehicles. And there is an awful lot of B-movie pedigree in Seeking Justice. The premise is similar to the Richard Kelly’s The Box; the ‘secret assassin’ unit device was used in Peter Hyams’ The Star Chamber; and, a straight line can be drawn between Cage’s character here and his younger, tougher self in Simon West’s Con Air.
But Donaldson and scripter Robert Tannen are clearly not out to reinvent the wheel with Seeking Justice (Clue #1, its blah-ly generic 1990s-style title). Their modus operandi is to give some well-worm tropes a good going-over and they largely succeed in their humble goals.
New Zealand-born Donaldson had a solid lock on undeniably daft but involving thrillers (No Way Out, White sands, The Getaway, Species, The Recruit ) before he peaked in 2005 with his passion project, The World’s Fastest Indian. He whirls his camera around corners and through speeding traffic with the solid but detached eye of an old pro; he appears to be doing his darndest to make sure his film could never be confused with any type of reality.
Which makes Cage his perfect leading man. The actor often seems to exist in a rarefied world, reacting with odd ticks and glowering facial expressions that are at first, incongruous with the scenario but which somehow gel with his director’s vision.
The time has certainly passed when critics can keep blathering on about how Cage’s current work compares to his meteoric emergence (Raising Arizona; Vampire’s Kiss; Moonstruck); that was thirty-odd years ago, and neither he (at close to 50) nor Hollywood make those sort of risky projects that thrive on A-list eccentricity. He seems determined to make the most of his Hollywood standing at present; if that all-too frequently leads to “WTF?” choices (Bangkok Dangerous; Trespass; Drive Angry; Season of the Witch; both Ghost Riders), it also occasionally yields a solidly enjoyable programmer, as is the case here.