Anchor Bay // 2011 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Russell Engebretson (Retired) // June 19th, 2012
Vengeance always has a price.
Seeking Justice is yet another recent movie that suffered a terrible thrashing from the critics, but is a pleasant enough way to pass an hour and forty minutes.
Will Gerard (Nicolas Cage, Bad Lieutenant) is a high school English teacher living in New Orleans. He likes his job, loves his musician wife Laura (January Jones, Unknown), and enjoys playing speed chess with his coworker and friend, Jimmy (Harold Perrineau, Lost). For Will, life is good, until suddenly it isn't.
After a late-night music rehearsal, Laura is assaulted in her parked car. Will arrives at the hospital to find his wife has been savagely beaten and raped, with the unknown perpetrator still at large. While Gerard sits grief-stricken in the hospital waiting room, he is approached by a sympathetic stranger who calls himself Simon (Guy Pearce, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark). It turns out that Simon has considerable knowledge of what happened to Laura. In fact, he knows who and where the serial rapist is, and offers Will the chance for a swift and final vengeance. The only thing Simon asks for in return is a favor from Will at some unspecified future date -- tailing a stranger, a package to be delivered, or some other such trifle. Will, in his rage and grief, agrees to the terms. Of course, when the debt is called in several months later, the price to be paid is higher than Will bargained for, and he is drawn ever more deeply into a deadly and potentially fatal conspiracy.
Nicholas Cage has received more than his fair share of reproach and scorn of late, perhaps due to a few of his roles in a string of mediocre films. However, for every Ghost Rider: Seeker of Vengeance or The Wicker Man, there is a Raising Arizona, Adaptation, or Moonstruck as counterweight. Like Michael Caine, Cage seems not to be happy unless he is working on a film, and, unlike many actors, he does not sleepwalk through his less-than-stellar roles just to pick up a paycheck. Whether it is over-the-top or naturalistic, he almost always delivers an entertaining, first-rate performance.
Will Gerard in Seeking Justice is an everyman, and Cage plays the part in a generally subdued manner in keeping with the character's personality, only slowly revealing Will's steely resolve and intelligence. Guy Pearce as the antagonist delivers his usual exceptional performance, displaying just enough arrogance and ruthlessness to have you rooting for his demise, but feeling at least a twinge of sympathy for his search for justice that has degenerated into garden-variety vigilantism. Within the confines of her truncated role as Will Gerard's wife, January Jones competently displays the character arc of a woman transforming from terrified victim to a take-charge, gun-toting female who refuses to be passive in the face of violence ever again. Although somewhat on the glamorous side for a high school teacher's spouse, she and Cage make a believable, sweet couple.
The film's main weakness is not in the acting, editing, or direction, which is fine all around, but in the contrived story, which you can't stop and think about for too long without falling into its yawning plot holes. Really, there are more competent ways to eliminate a nuisance than sending an amateur to do the job, and a conspiracy of this breadth and depth would never remain so well-hidden. Still, I have to congratulate the scriptwriters on a mercifully short car chase and a satisfyingly long and clever foot chase. Also, it's refreshing to see a movie set pretty much anywhere other than NYC or LA, and with an average middle-class working couple for main characters. I'm not highly critical of films that are primarily designed to entertain, movies that allow the viewer to forget his problems for a while and get lost in the story, booing the villains and pulling for the good guys. If that's what you're looking for, Seeking Justice gets the job done.
Technically, the 2.35:1, 1080p picture is good but not exceptional. Distant and mid-focus shots are on the soft side; closeups are nicely detailed. Color looks pleasingly natural, neither oversaturated nor desaturated, with natural flesh tones and decent shadow detail. Dialogue is easy to understand and not obscured by louder noises such as gunshots or the roar of traffic. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is relatively active in the surround speakers during action sequences. J. Peter Robinson's score is an assemblage of well-composed cues with no especially memorable theme, but the music fits naturally and unobtrusively within the film, sounding quite good in lossless audio.
The only extra is a tossed off, 7-minute making-of featurette entitled "Seeking Justice: Behind the Scenes." The Blu-ray comes in a "Combo Pack" keep case that includes a DVD copy of the movie.
How can you pass up a movie starring Nic Cage in a Van Dyke beard and Guy Pearce sporting a buzz cut? Set aside high expectations, disregard the implausible plot turns, give the analytical side of your brain a vacation, and you may find yourself enjoying director Roger Donaldson's well-paced cat-and-mouse tale of vengeance and justice served.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R