Seeking Justice

| June 20, 2012

Thirty-year veteran Roger Donaldson (No Way Out, Cocktail, Species, and, more recently, The Bank Job) directs the king of cartoonishly over-the-top acting, Nicolas Cage, in a shockingly restrained and sympathetic performance as a husband sent on a Hitchcockian journey to the depths of his capacity for violence.  Following the brutal rape of his wife, Laura (January Jones), Will Gerard (Cage) is approached at the hospital by the mysterious Simon (Guy Pearce).  Simon offers Will an exchange of sorts: Simon will have someone “dispose” of his wife’s rapist if Will agrees to be on call for a favor to Simon in return.

As it turns out, Simon runs an organization of vigilantes that functions in a violent “pay it forward” sort of way: As links in a chain, distraught and vengeful men and women seek retribution for fellow victims of violent crimes as coordinated by Simon.  When the rage subsides and Will becomes focused solely on comforting his wife as she attempts to get back on her feet, he is called on by Simon and required to make a complex ethical decision in the rational light of day rather than the wrathful darkness of that night at the hospital.  Ordered to kill a sexual predator, Will finds himself unable to carry out the deed.  When the target ends up dead anyway with Will on the hook for his murder, Will finds himself fleeing police and a secret, frighteningly ubiquitous vigilante organization bent on eliminating both him and his wife.

Even before he became a laughingstock, I was never a big Nicolas Cage fan.  Regardless of my apathy, though, I was totally engrossed in Seeking Justice.  The beginning is bland and cliched and the initial expository portion of the middle takes a while to smooth out the rough edges, but once the film makes the left on Hitchcock Boulevard and sends Cage into a life-and-death search for a way to bring down the clandestine ring of killers hellbent on destroying him and his wife just when they had gotten their lives back on track, Seeking Justice casts off its Death Wish ripoff shackles and becomes an intriguing twist on the familiar action movie trope of vigilantism.

In addition to Jones and Pearce, Cage is also lent support by Harold Perrineau (Oz, Lost, and the Matrix films), who throws a nifty wrench into the narrative, and veteran character actor of film and television, Xander Berkeley (probably best remembered as John Connor’s unlucky milk-drinking foster dad in Terminator 2), who has a small but integral role as a detective.  As important as story and performance are in all films, for a film like Seeking Justice, the ultimate criterion of value is its action, and fortunately for this film, its action is its strongest feature.  From a foot chase on a heavily trafficked highway to a climactic shootout in an abandoned mall, Donaldson weaves exciting action into his narrative.

Anchored by a measured performance from Cage, Seeking Justice is a memorable Hitchcockian thriller with more than enough psychological tension and adrenaline-fueled action to satisfy those looking for a thriller fix.

About the Author:

Kyle Barrowman is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at Columbia College in Chicago. In addition to his work for Film Monthly, he has previously published essays for Cashiers du Cinemart, Offscreen, and The International Journal of Žižek Studies, on subjects ranging from film noir to Alfred Hitchcock, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Lee.
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