It doesn’t bode well when you go to see a Nicolas Cage film and the theatre is almost empty. Well, actually, it doesn’t usually bode well when you go to see a Nicolas Cage film full stop. His latest film, entitled simply Justice revolves around a school teacher named Nick Gerard who, after the brutal rape of his wife (played by January Jones) enlists the help of a vigilante group who promise to kill the rapist if he carries out favours for them in return.
Now, whilst the premise itself sounds quite interesting the actual pay-off is underwhelming to say the least. Whilst the opening is promising, dealing with the trauma and after-effects that rape victims often suffer rather convincingly, it is used merely as a plot device to give Gerard’s wife a reason for carrying a weapon rather than building her character. And therein lies another problem; there are no memorable characters in this film. No one is in the least bit interesting. Little care is given to developing any interesting back stories or motivations. Cage’s character comes across as, well, just a schoolteacher, with little credible motivation and few interesting traits. Even the villain (played by Guy Pearce) has one of the blandest motivations, something involving pollution, people being lazy, getting drunk, having sex and none of these are ever explained in any real detail.
The plot itself is both over-complicated and farcical to the point where even Gerard, I think, is clueless as to what is transpiring. The film becomes far too silly, with the organisation even sending Gerard threats and messages via the arrangement of his fridge magnets! Even the action sequences, when they arrive, feel somewhat underwhelming and pointless. Essentially, the plot is just a string of chase and/or information-seeking sequences (that we are familiar with from films such as, say, the Bourne trilogy) that never really lead anywhere. Unlike the Bourne films, here we know the identity of the villains so there is little point to these sequences and little mystery. The only suspense and paranoia is generated from the idea that there is this secret organisation somewhere doing something ambiguous that is never really explained or conveyed to the audience satisfactorily. The motivation isn’t really there in any real solid sense for us to make any sense out of what this organisation is planning!
Nicolas Cage is, well, Nicolas Cage and carries the movie quite well considering how poorly written his character is. January Jones does a decent job of portraying a rape victim but, again, suffers from poor writing that leaves her character, in the latter half of the movie, as simply a kidnap victim that provides the protagonist with a dilemma. Guy Pearce is semi-threatening as the villain, which is surprising, considering his characters lack of development beyond a very vague assertion of his ambitions which range from curing world hunger to stopping pollution or something-or-other. Either way, every character in the film is forgettable.
Overall, Justice suffers from being just as bland and vague as its title. No real care has been given to flesh out an intriguing idea into what could have been something suspenseful and insightful. Instead, we are given a film that is ambiguous to the point where you never really know why anything is happening and, to be honest, should we really care?