Nicolas Cage continues his career as a critic-defying lovable loon, and I just don’t get his popularity. After many years in the video retail/rental industry, I can honestly say that probably close to 80% of the movie watching population loves Nic Cage. Look around, and you’ll see the hate, but the hate is so passionate, so feverish, that they’ve seen every one of his films. The dangerous thing about these people is they do just that, which includes watching stuff like Drive Angry 3D (which I enjoyed in a “this is like a shitty From Dusk Till Dawn 4th sequel” kind of way), Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (where he literally changes accent and acting style in every single scene), and now, Seeking Justice. Cage makes films hard to review, because they are not like the films of anyone else. Most over-actors do it because they lack skill. Cage has proven time and again that he can indeed act, and he can do it well. And then, there’s The Wicker Man remake. So it’s almost as if a number of factors go into his performance, his mental health, how he’s wearing his wig, whether his goatee is real or not, and how many different leather jackets he can actually wear in one movie. The acting is one of the last things you tend to notice in one of his films, as there is often so much insane shit going on that acting is one of the last things you actually think about.
Seeking Justice has the same ridiculous problems throughout the film, and it seems they are problems that will always come with Cage at this point, because no one on set can tell him what to do. Hell, most of the time on set, no one is allowed to look him in the eye, and people are told not to focus on his hair, or ask him any questions about it. So you can imagine what the making of one of these films is like, when you add in the fact that this one has a rather wild script behind it, it almost inevitably is going to become a mess of some sort. At the very least though, this is one of the fun rides through crazy town with Cage, even if in the end it really doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Anyway, Cage plays Will, a high school teacher in a troubled New Orleans neighborhood that tries to live a peaceful life with his beautiful wife Laura (January Jones). As Cage only seems to take these type of roles anymore, of course his wife ends up assaulted, left in the hospital, making Will a frail and scared man until he meets Simon (Guy Pearce). Simon offers his condolences, and then explains that he can take care of Will’s problem. When nice-guy Will finally understands what Simon is implying, he recoils at the thought, until he remembers his wife in the hospital bed, damaged. He strikes a deal with Simon to help him in the future, if Simon will just take care of this one guy that assaulted his wife.
We see the man’s life taken, and Will unexpectedly gets a package put into his hand, which contains a picture of the dead man, and the return of his wife’s necklace that he bought as an anniversary present. Grateful, he attempts to move on with his life and repair his damaged wife. Six months later, they’re on the road to recovery and Will receives the call he has been dreading; Simon asking for his favor. He claims it is a simple favor, just mail a letter to Santa Claus in front of the New Orleans City Zoo. When he arrives to do so, his assignment changes, and he is supposed to be watching for a man. He never sees the man, and leaves quietly, forgetting about it. The next day, Simon calls again, explaining there is one last part to his favor, just take the bus and follow the man he was supposed to be looking for the day before. When Will finally gets close to the man, he spooks and attempts to attack Will, dying in miraculous fashion as he attempts to take Will out. This is the beginning of the conspiracy spiral, and if you’ve seen more than a few movies before, you recognize a lot of the territory here. It’s Strangers on a Train meets a Fight Club style conspiracy set in the framework of a modern thriller.
Nothing is too new or exciting, and a good amount of the action is pretty generic, but one thing that had me continually impressed was the stunt work. For as lame as a lot of the action is, the stunt men pull off some pretty insane looking stuff, and although the screenplay isn’t terribly original, it’s the way in which it approaches its varied subjects that keeps it interesting. Somehow, director Roger Donaldson really managed to keep everything together despite the corny nature of the logic. The ending of the film attempts to be ambiguous, but really, it’s a non-ending, and that’s what most of the plot felt like, non-plot. Yes, things were happening, characters were shouting and running, and supposedly something is being accomplished, but it all just feels fake, I suppose because Cage doesn’t bother to hid the fact that most of it is indeed fake. Guy Pearce is the only person really acting, and even then he hams it up, which is really all you can do in that situation. The problem with Cage is he’s naturally hammy without realizing it, when he tries to do the same it just comes off awful. January Jones is in Cage’s wheelhouse, just taking a paycheck, and waiting for the next season of Mad Men to start.
With serviceable action, enough normality to keep you at least mildly entertained, and just enough insanity to make you laugh out loud, Seeking Justice is best geared toward the B-action crowd, and the surprisingly large Nicolas Cage fanbase. I swear, some people will just watch anything he’s in, regardless of how terrible he’s been in a number of different films. As I’m one of those people, I didn’t mind this movie. I suppose the rest depends on how you feel about Cage, but for Oz fans, there is a fun, if appropriately corny, turn from Harold Perrineau, so that’s always worth something I suppose. For some strange reason, I have a feeling general audiences will like this film, the same people that paid to see The Devil Inside will probably pay for this one, so I suspect it will do well at the box office, but we will see on March 16th when it comes out.