Sunday, March 18, 2012

Seeking Justice (B-)

In the fall of last year, I watched and reviewed Trespass, a critically reviled independent thriller starring fallen thespian Nicolas Cage. However, when viewing the film, I had little intention of treating it as average theatrical entertainment; I attended the film solely for the purpose reveling in "so bad it's good" unintentional humor, and to see Cage at his absolute looniest. Many toss slight insults at the formerly unanimously acclaimed actor, stating that his best days are behind him due to poor decisions as to which films are worth his talent (or at least his pocketbook). While I do admittedly deeply wish Cage would dismiss thoughts of earnings for a couple weeks in order to take on a more hefty role, he still possesses an incredible skill which allows his toiling in the realms of exceedingly mediocre cinema to be, at the very least, bearable: He can help transform any screenplay, no matter how conventional, ludicrous, dull, or simply abysmal, into something thoroughly entertaining almost entirely through his performance. It's movie magic in one of its strangest forms; though he cannot turn atrocious material into great art, he can certainly raise it to the level of certainly satisfying mediocrity. Even though I treated Trespass with far lower expectations than perhaps any other film reviewed on the site, Seeking Justice was critiqued without handicap/favoritism, and the result of which is a description which exactly matches my opinion of the majority of Cage's latter day work: Satisfying Mediocrity.

Set in a post-Katrina New Orleans, after a peaceful english teacher's (Nicolas Cage) wife is brutally raped (January Jones), he accidentally emits himself into a web of vigilantism when he requests the killing of his wife's attacker by a charismatic stranger (Guy Pearce). The plot seems slightly ridiculous in the text format, and doesn't improve very much in terms of plausibility when brought to the big screen. It's a generic conspiracy movie lightly crossed with slightly subtler Charles Bronson, and the combination results in hopelessly dumb, yet surprisingly highly entertaining pulp. Even more surprising though, is that rather than Cage, the film is carried by Roger Donaldson's (The Bank Job) direction. He keeps the film moving at such a pace you don't realize the absurdity until far too late for it to be questioned, and even occasionally succeeds in making certain nonsensical situations believable. Donaldson also succeeds in turning his post-Katrina New Orleans setting into a true character in the film; not just having the city be a generic well known place to feature action. An example of this can be found in the film's final shootout, shot (pun intended) in an abandoned shopping center never cleaned after the hurricane. The moral decay of the characters is just as prominent as the physical decay of the city.

Seeking Justice is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a great movie, but still delivers its good share of pulpy thrills through Donaldson's direction, and the very presence of Nicolas Cage. Though I probably will not remember very much about the film come two weeks, at the time it was a fun watch; nothing more, nothing less. Just like the majority of Cage's latter day cinematic cannon, this was unadulterated satisfying mediocrity.

Grade: B-

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