Film Review


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Seeking Justice

Nicolas Cage almost looks not crazy in this scene from Seeking Justice. [Photo: Anchor Bay Films]

Seeking Justice 1 out of 4

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Nicolas Cage's devolution into a crazy-lunatic screen presence has sabotaged his ability to convincingly behave like a human; to watch him cry upon hearing news of his wife's rape in Seeking Justice is to witness a surreal approximation of natural emotion, like an alien mimicking the social gesticulations of a foreign species. So it goes for most of Roger Donaldson's wacko Louisiana-set thriller, in which Cage delivers one awkward, mannered line reading after another while operating in normal-guy mode as Will, a high school English teacher who finds himself in a terrible bind when his cellist wife, Laura (January Jones), is assaulted after a nighttime rehearsal. As he processes the attack in a hospital waiting room, Will is approached by bald, dapper Simon (Guy Pearce), who gives him a bloodthirst-courting vigilante proposition: For a future "favor," Simon's shadowy organization—determined to clean up New Orleans, which it views (and the film depicts) as a festering sore sliding straight into the pits of Hades—will kill Laura's attacker. As indicated by his combed-back semi-long hair and nerdy goatee, Will is no psycho, but his vengeful pride nonetheless compels him to agree to this deal, all via a secretive process involving the purchase of vending-machine candy bars that Donaldson draws out with one ludicrous close-up after another.

Extreme zooms and unnecessary canted camera angles are also part of Seeking Justice's overcooked vision, though the film's tossed-off look and clunky editorial construction are still secondary to the sheer silliness of its story, in which six months after this pact, Will is compelled by Simon to first stalk, and then murder, a man that Simon claims is a pedophile. This leads to inadvertent deaths, executions, double-crosses, Will manhandling—and, later on, punching out—an unruly student, and predictable revelations that Simon is just as insane as he initially appeared, as well as an amazingly inert foot-chase sequence in which Will climbs over the side of an elevated freeway overpass as if he were Spider-Man, and then narrowly avoids death while racing across a busy street. As nonsensical twists compete for point-and-laugh attention, Jones walks blankly through a victimization-by-way-of-plot-device role that asks less than nothing of her, and Pearce sneers and menaces with righteous fury at decadence and moral deterioration. Donaldson's subpar stewardship and his supporting players' blank turns, however, still pale in comparison to the sheer weirdness of Cage, who overdoes it with every ebullient "Who Dat!" exclamation and tense reaction shot of snarled lips, wide eyes, and clenched facial features. As in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, he's a walking, talking collection of ticks, flailed limbs, and outsized expressions fit for a freaky Mardi Gras float.

Director(s): Roger Donaldson Screenwriter(s): Robert Tannen Cast: Nicolas Cage, Guy Pearce, January Jones, Jennifer Carpenter, Harold Perrineau, Xander Berkeley Distributor: Anchor Bay Films Runtime: 105 min Rating: R Year: 2011

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