Can anyone remember when a new Nicolas Cage movie actually inspired excitement in people?
The dude was actually awarded the title of Distinguished Decade in Film Award from the nation’s movie theater owners in 2001, honoring him for bringing in the big bucks on such crowd pleasers as “Honeymoon in Vegas,” “Con Air” and “The Rock.” Add in his Oscar for his turn as the most gruesome alcoholic in movie history in “Leaving Las Vegas,” and it’s not hard to understand that Cage used to have big, badass clout with filmmakers, film fans and film critics alike.
But in the past few years, he’s been circling the drain with one bomb after another, from “The Wicker Man” and “Season of the Witch” to “Drive Angry 3D.” (Seriously, man, how did ANY A-list actor ever manage to even have that last one cross their desks?). And marking his second movie already this year, following February’s “Ghost Rider 2: Taxman’s Revenge,” is this weekend’s cheeseball vigilante “thriller” “Seeking Justice.”
Released by tiny distributor Anchor Bay, which can’t seem to make up its mind between releasing great films like “City Island” and “Solitary Man,” or dreck like the remake of “I Spit On Your Grave,” Cage’s new opus finds him playing Will Gerard, an English teacher who teaches pacifism to his students until his wife (January Jones) is raped.
While she recovers in a hospital, a vigilante played by Guy Pearce appears and offers to kill the rapist for him, if Gerard will agree to kill an alleged pedophile and remove him from society. If he doesn’t, they say they’ll kill his wife.Gerard agrees at first, and then finds himself constantly harassed with notes and phone calls giving him threats and instructions to carry out his end of the deal.
Seriously, we’re talking some of the most convoluted and annoying directions ever used in a film, with plenty of cryptic phrases thrown in to confuse the viewer and allow Cage to utilize his patented “I’m really confused and it’s pissing me off” scowl. He gets so many instructions and threats – including the arranging of plastic magnetic alphabet letters on his fridge at home – that one couldn’t blame him if he said “screw it” and let his wife die after all.
This may sound good, if you haven’t ever seen a vigilante movie before or managed to miss Cage’s past decade of disaster. As Andy Samberg recently pointed out in a devastating impression of Cage on “SNL,” the former Oscar winner now operates in merely two modes: wild-eyed, surprised rage or seemingly stoned somnambulance.Here, Cage is in the latter mode, with puffy bags under his eyes that probably aren’t applied in the makeup trailer. Rather, he was probably up every night during filming, wondering how he could find a loophole to get out of making the rest of this.
Jones at least matches him with a dead-eyed, wooden performance that hides the fact she was wondering why AMC waited so long to finally air the new season of “Mad Men,” leaving her to take a gig like this. And Pearce heads a ridiculous bunch of goons while looking once again as if he wished he had landed Russell Crowe’s career after “LA Confidential.”
“Seeking Justice” is by-the-numbers, lazy filmmaking from its workmanlike obvious title on down through its ridiculously faulty logic and reasoning in numerous situations that cause the Cage and Jones to endanger themselves foolishly and repeatedly.
The film was shot digitally, causing it to have an antiseptic tone when its New Orleans setting and underground-justice nature call for grittiness.Director Roger Donaldson used to be a master of thrillers in the ’80s and ’90s with films like “No Way Out,” but here it appears that anyone unfortunate enough to stumble across this film will feel like they have no way out instead.