It could easily be argued that Nicolas Cage does not have a “type”, being that he makes so many films and is willing to try his luck at almost any role, be it crusading knight, rogue detective or vengeful spirit from the Underworld. Even for Cage though, bookish inner-city school teacher seems like a bit of a stretch. Almost from the moment Will Gerard is introduced, Cage seems compelled to dance like a crazy person in a Mardi Gras street carnival and howl at the moon just so we all know it’s him (like we wouldn’t recognize the hair plugs and ghoulish smile anywhere). However, it’s not until his wife (January Jones) is brutally raped and a secret vigilante group approaches him offering vengeance that Seeking Justice reveals its B-movie trappings and we begin to understand why Cage took the part.
Originally titled The Hungry Rabbit Jumps (a name that makes perfect sense in context but sounds a little too much like a family friendly animation than a remorseless journey of revenge), director Roger Donaldson’s film presents an intriguing premise. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, individuals are taking the law into their own hands, dishing out punishments where they feel the authorities have failed and enlisting new members in return for their services. It is six months after his wife was attacked that Simon (Guy Pearce) comes knocking, insisting that Gerard must now return the favour, and has Cage running for his life and ready to fight.
Cage’s character is frustratingly inconsistent from the outset – deranged reveller, rigid disciplinarian, bookish intellectual, unwilling man of action – but as ever he throws himself into the role with almost reckless enthusiasm. January Jones, who has shown little prowess in front of the camera to-date, does a pretty great job as the doting wife, traumatized victim and eventually empowered avenger. Guy Pearce is clearly having fun as the villainous face of this underground movement, but unfortunately the script never allows his character to evolve or even explain himself sufficiently. In the end this criticism can be levelled at the entire film, which gets bogged down in a sub-plot involving a murdered journalist and never bothers expanding on how the group was formed or how it operates. The fact that it exists is apparently enough.
Other cast members, including Harold Perrineau, Jennifer Carpenter and Xander Berkeley, are largely wasted in superfluous roles that amount to little more than set dressing. Ultimately it does all fall apart, wrapping up a film that began as an intelligent drama about post-Katrina New Orleans with a bloody fist fight, but along the way Seeking Justice has enough old school action and excitement to keep audiences entertained. And that’s more than can be said for the majority of Cage’s recent output, so this should be chalked up as a modest win.