Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Film Review: Justice (2011)

Director: Roger Donaldson
Writer: Todd Hickey and Robert Tannen
Stars: Nicolas Cage, January Jones and Guy Pearce

Season Of The Witch. A new low. Drive Angry. Pitiful. Trespass. A travesty of talent gone to waste.

And now comes the fourth film from Nicolas Cage this year, Justice. The good news is that it’s the best of his four films this year. The bad news is, it’s still sub-standard and a long way off of anything resembling what Nicolas Cage is worthy of.

The plot is simple; Cage plays Will Gerard, a man whose wife (January Jones) is raped and beaten and seeks the justice of the film’s title via a ‘secret organisation’ of vigilantes headed by Guy Pearce. When Pearce and his gang ask for Cage to do them some favours in return for the rapist’s murder, things start to get dangerous.

Or at least that’s what should happen if it were not for a plot which is so full of holes, it’s practically see-through. I won’t go into detail of the story and why it just doesn’t deliver, because it would be a spoiler for anyone who still decides to see it. What I will tell you is about the film making aspect of it all (and why it doesn’t deliver). The film, shot digitally by director Roger Donaldson, is needlessly bleak and stark and devoid of any colour or contrasting surroundings. Each scene is lit the same and the ‘mean and moody’ atmosphere which Donaldson is trying to convey doesn’t work; the film ends up looking boring from a purely aesthetic point of view. Moreover, the film takes several opportunities to remind the audience that it’s set and filmed in New Orleans yet the story make little or no use of the city or its locations, except for an abandoned shopping mall which still remains unused after hurricane Katrina. Very sad indeed for such an important American city. The film isn’t all bad and I was never bored but never at once excited either. It is the blueprint on how to make a by-the-numbers thriller.

The action scenes are, to be fair, well done if unoriginal and unexciting due to its small budget. After all, here we have an actor who is used to picking up $20 million pay cheques and starring in $100 million productions starring in, what is essentially, a TV movie. Long gone is the holy trinity of The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off. What is unforgivable is the ending where we see January Jones killing someone in the age old tradition of gunshots-come-from-off-screen-and-we’re-expected-to-be-surprised-when-the-shooter-is-revealed technique. Scriptwriting at its most lazy if I’ve ever seen it.

Finally, I have to say it again and it pains me to do so, but let’s mention Nicolas Cage’s career. Such a great talent and one of the finest actors of his generation, delivering performances that no one else could have done (Leaving Las Vegas, Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans, Adaptation), he is on a downward spiral like no other A-List actor I can think of. The film scripts he is choosing are terrible and are not allowing him to do his thing which is being the crazy and unpredictable Nicolas Cage we know and love. Cage is always (or at least nearly always) good, but the more films like this he churns out, the less time people are going to give him to get back on top again. A dvd watch at very best.


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