Seeking Justice pairs Nicolas Cage with Guy Pearce and somehow the results are less than stellar.
“Only if it’s a noun, and the words have equal weight. Like, Homeland Security. If it’s a participle modifying the first word, then… you better keep it lower case.”
Nicolas Cage makes a lot of movies which makes it hard to keep up, even for the die-hard Cageiacs like myself. Last week I wrote about Fire Birds, a Cage movie from the early 90’s that was new to me. This week I’m tackling Seeking Justice, a newer new-to-me Cage flick.
In Seeking Justice Cage stars as Will Gerard an English teacher at an inner-city New Orleans high school. Will is happily married to Laura (January Jones), a cello player in a local orchestra. By all accounts, Will and Laura live pretty perfect lives.
One evening while Will is playing chess with his best friend Jimmy (Harold Perrineau), Laura is attacked and raped while getting into her car. As soon as Will gets the news he immediately rushes to the hospital were local detectives advise him that Laura gave them a good description of her attacker and they vow to bring him to justice. As Will awaits for Laura to regain consciousness, he is approached by a stranger named Simon (Guy Pearce).
Simon introduces himself by telling Will he knows who attacked Laura. Simon describes Laura’s attacker as a recent parolee who will attack again. Simon isn’t a cop, but he represents an organization that wants to help Will by taking care of Laura’s attacker. It won’t cost Will anything financially to use Simon’s services, but at some point in the future, he’ll be expected to do a favor for Simon. Will turns down Simon’s offer at first but then quickly has a flashback to ten minutes ago to when he first saw Laura laying in the hospital and decides that he will allow Simon to help him.
Simon’s organization is a secret group of vigilantes dedicated to giving the citizens of New Orleans the justice they don’t seem to be getting from the New Orleans Police Department. In theory this a good idea, but like most vigilante justice this group goes too far, often murdering any and all suspects. After murdering Laura’s attacker the group orders Will to murder a man they describe as a pedophile. As it turns out this pedophile is really a journalist that is about to blow the top off the secret organization of vigilantes and I think it’s pretty obvious that secret organizations of vigilantes need their tops.
Seeking Justice has a pretty cool premise. I like the idea of secret vigilantes taking out murderers, rapists, etc. There’s something cool to the idea of previous victims getting justice for others and sort of paying it forward. The problem is in the details. For the events in the movie to work, almost all of New Orleans needs to be a part of this organization.
When Will officially agrees to accept Simon’s help he has to buy two chocolate candy bars from a hospital vending machine. Once he buys those the organization will get started. But who is seeing him buy the candy bars? And why even buy the candy bars? Why can’t Will just say, “Yes, I’d like your help?” That seems like it would be a lot easier. On the plus side, we do get a really intense scene of Cage buying candy bars. The scene is stupid and dumb, but if you focus on that scene in a vacuum Cage is great in it.
When Will is asked to kill the journalist he’s told that everything is taken care of so that he won’t get caught by the cops, but later in the movie, we learn that cops are part of the organization. If the organization has cops, why don’t the cops just commit the murders? That seems like the most obvious solution.
Also, how does Simon know so quickly what happened to Laura’s wife and how does he know who did it? Did he or someone within the organization witness the crime? If so, why didn’t they stop it in the act? Why doesn’t Will question any of this when he’s initially approached by Simon? The deeper you dive into this film, the more of these issues you encounter.
The script to Seeking Justice was written by Robert Tannen and it’s based off a story by him and Todd Hickey. In 2009, two years before the film was shot, the screenplay was named one of the Blacklist’s best-unmade scripts of the year. This leads me to believe the script changed greatly from the time it received that honor to the time it was actually filmed. Either that or the unmade scripts in 2009 weren’t very good because this script is pretty bad. It feels like the final shooting script was the first draft.
Cage handles the uneven material pretty well. Per usual, he fully commits to the role, despite its many flaws. This is a pretty calm Cage of the most part, with a few little bursts here and there where he releases the rage. There are a handful of scenes that are pretty good. The aforementioned candy bar scene is probably the best, even though I maintain that it is incredibly stupid.
A reason why I love Cage so much is that you can tell he always tries, regardless of how good or bad the movie is. I wish the same could be said for Guy Pearce. I was stoked to see Cage and Pearce share the screen together. Unfortunately, Pearce just seems to be going through the motions, reading his lines. There’s nothing interesting to what he is doing. In Pearce’s defense, the script is bad, but he doesn’t seem to do anything to help matters.
Despite all it’s flaws, Seeking Justice is actually better than I expected it to be. The film was directed by Roger Donaldson, so it’s a pretty competently made movie. Straight-to-video thrillers often struggle from looking cheap. That’s not an issue here at all. Seeking Justice looks good, even containing a few nice action set pieces, but that’s still not enough to elevate the material.
Seeking Justice ends up being a pretty standard, flawed thriller. At the end of the day it’s just sort of boring and if you spend too much time thinking about the plot you end up getting angry. Cage has a number of newer action-thrillers that are similar to Seeking Justice but most have more interesting aspects that make them worth your time. Something like Stolen is better suited to whet your straight-to-video-action-Cage appetite.