LITTLE ROCK We assume Nicolas Cage keeps appearing in insane movies because he needs the money.
That’s what we hear, anyway, and we might assume that if he didn’t appear in these insane movies, at least some of them would probably never get made - or if they were made, they wouldn’t be as fish-head crazy as Cage makes them.
There is a strange and sometimes wondrous intensity in Cage’s performances in these films; sometimes his madness is enough to elevate a film - like Werner Herzog’s The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans - to a kind of trashy sublimity. Some say the Ghost Rider movies are worth seeing simply for Cage’s weird integrity. I certainly enjoy him more often than not,even if he’s in something indefensible.
Roger Donaldson’s Seeking Justice is not an indefensible movie - on paper it might even seem like a good idea, a kind of updated Charles Bronson urban vigilante flick with a tweak. But it is not as good as I’m compelled to make it sound, and the main thing it is is depressing. It plays as a missed opportunity that not even an unhinged, desperate Nicolas Cage can save.
The story is this: Cage is Will Gerard, a dedicated high school English teacher in New Orleans, whose life is shattered when his wife, Laura (January Jones), is beaten and raped and left for dead. While she battles for her life, Will is approached in the hospital waiting room by a bald dandy named Simon (Guy Pearce), who offers to find and kill the man responsible. But this will, of course, put Will in his debt. Someday, Simon might need to ask a favor.
Of course Will goes for the bargain - he has read the newspapers, he knows the chances are the cops will never find the perp and if they do, he’ll be freed on a technicality or given a lenient sentence.
Never mind the dubiousness of the premise, it’s just so much standard Hollywood boilerplate. What the movie’s trying to do is allow Will some moral cover for the dark path that he’s about to undertake. How far a decent man will go to punish those who have mortally transgressed against his family is a fair and intriguing question - and Cage has heretofore exhibited a singular talent for portraying dislocated everymen.
Still, he never seems to seat himself in the character of Gerard - his teacher seems completely artificial, a collection of gestures and inflections, more moving parts than person worthy of our empathy.
Nor is Jones put to particularly good use here, and while Pearce gets to play oily and sinister, which might have been fun for him, the resultant movie quickly descends into B-movie camp and a ridiculously overblown chase.
Donaldson is an odd director, one who has done some good work - No Way Out, Thirteen Days, The World’s Fastest Indian - but he, and everyone else associated with this misbegotten venture, just seems to want to get the whole thing over with, and to be on to the next thing, which presumably will be better.
Or at least crazier.
Seeking Justice 78
Nicolas Cage, January Jones, Guy Pearce
R, for violence, language and brief sexuality
MovieStyle, Pages 31 on 04/13/2012
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