Friday, March 16, 2012

Seeking Justice: Nicolas Cage Keeps Digging a Deeper Career Hole

In some evil alternate universe, “the hungry rabbit jumps” is about to become a massive catch-phrase. Thanks to a benevolent creator, we do not live in that world. In our reality, Nicolas Cage keeps sinking to lower lows with each new b-movie he appears in. The lowest yet, is Roger Donaldson’s Seeking Justice (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

Happily married Will Gerard’s life crumbles when his much smarter and more attractive wife Laura is attacked. While anxiously awaiting news in the hospital, Gerard is approached by a suspicious man. Simon, as he will be called, tells Gerard his associates know who did it and can “take care of him” if he agrees to do them a favor in the future. After an agonizing period of hand-wringing, Gerard agrees. The deed is done, his wife begins her recovery, and life appears to right itself. Then Gerard gets the call with those magic words: “the hungry rabbit jumps.” That means it is time to collect.

Evidently, the mystery man represents a shadowy cabal of vigilantes (encompassing just about everyone in the city of New Orleans) based on the principal of paying vengeance forward. It is now Gerard’s turn to off someone. However, his target is not who he was represented to be. It seems the conspiracy forgot about the private justice aspect of their business and became all about killing.

Only Cage would make a self-loathing vigilante movie. Face it, this is what he does. However, why a quality filmmaker would helm such depressing vehicle is a mystery. Roger Donaldson’s last film The Bank Job was smart, sophisticated, and lively. What happened? It is also baffling how January Jones’s management could let her squander her Mad Men capital in a Nic Cage picture. In truth, she is perfectly fine as Laura Gerard, but it is not exactly a part of great depth.

At least in Trespass, Cage’s previous blink-and-you-missed-it release, Ben Mendelsohn understood how to chew the scenery as a larger than life villain. In contrast, Guy Pearce looks physically uncomfortable as Simon, like he was suffering from a bad case of food poisoning during production. The only spark in the picture comes from Xander Berkeley, doing his shtick as the corrupt Lt. Durgan with a ridiculous New Orleans accent, presumably to help stave off boredom.

It is great that Justice was shot in New Orleans, but it is frustrating that the production did not take advantage of the Crescent City’s richly diverse music scene. That would have at least helped offset some of the film’s blandness. Altogether, the film lacks character, energy, and conviction. Highly skippable, it opens today (3/16) in New York at the Village East and AMC Empire.