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June 12, 2012

Seeking Justice

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Roger Donaldson - 2011
Anchor Bay Entertainment Region 1 DVD

First off, I say we cut Nicolas Cage a little slack. I suspect some of us might even take a role in (shudder) Human Centipede 3 if that's what it took to help pay down back taxes of eight million dollars. Sometimes, you just can't be choosy.

And, yeah, there were times while watching Seeking Justice that I wondered what happened to the Nicolas Cage of Leaving Las Vegas, or even the entertaining and ridiculous National Treasure, as well as the Guy Pearce of Momento and L. A. Confidential, and Roger Donaldson, a wildly uneven director who seems to have peaked with No Way Out, back in 1987. Even a screenplay with characters who quote Shakespeare and Edmund Burke still feels generic. Just when I thought this film would be as forgettable as Trespass, the film Cage made with Nicole Kidman that went virtually straight to DVD, patience was rewarded with the last ten minutes of Seeking Justice.

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The setup is that Cage plays an English teacher in inner city New Orleans at Rampart High. January Jones is his wife, a concert cellist. Jones is assaulted and raped. Guy Pearce is the mysterious stranger who knows Jones' attacker, and offers private resolution in exchange for calling in a favor or two in the future. Of course, nothing good comes of this, as the chess playing Cage finds that he's an unwitting pawn in someone else's game. I refuse to believe that screenplay writers Todd Hickey and Robert Tannen did not see Strangers on a Train and Magnum Force, or maybe even The Star Chamber before penning this story about a secret vigilante force in New Orleans, where strangers murder strangers.

Maybe it's the somewhat unusual setting of an abandoned mall, with its empty display cases, stilled escalators, and stripped mannequins, but Seeking Justice comes truly alive in this setting, where the principle characters have their final showdown. The effect is as if everyone had saved their energy for this one scene, kind of like a runner who keeps pace suddenly sprinting before the finish line. There is also the added kick of seeing January Jones with a gun, but then anyone who knows me knows that I'm a sucker for girls with guns.

Seeking Justice unsurprisingly did not get much a theatrical release in the U.S. But it is the kind of film that's reasonably entertaining for home viewing. Say what you will about Nic Cage and his movies where he seems to always play a character bent on revenge for one reason or another, Seeking Justice is a hell of a lot better than Trespass.

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Posted by Peter Nellhaus at June 12, 2012 08:54 AM