This might be a dangerous tack, perhaps even an unfair one to take when it comes to a 2012 Nic Cage thriller, but it's an honest reaction, I swear: Seeking Justice would be a way better movie if it were more bonkers. I know, I know, Nicolas Cage has been alternately befuddling and enraging the entire world for the past 15 years with his penchant for bonkers-only cinema, attacking the Oscar-winning reputation he erected through films like Raising Arizona, Moonstruck, and Leaving Las Vegas by opting almost exclusively for toolbag projects where action-packed vapid insanity is the name of the game (the game being a loosely organized brand of street hockey played with blow torches and a human head). While only the cold, unpatriotic heart of a robot could speak ill of a movie about a treasure map hidden in the Constitution, many movie goers have spent the past decade and a half bemoaning Cage for losing his effing mind, and apparently becoming so tonally hard of hearing that he cannot sign on for a movie unless the timbre is explosive and over the top.
So when Cage stars in a thriller like Seeking Justice, where the narrative is plodding and deliberate and, dare I say, kind of slow, it probably sounds ungrateful to criticize him for picking something a few pegs down on the madness meter. But what you figure out, watching him earnestly grit his teeth and run from oncoming traffic without the usual Strom und Drang of evil aliens and flaming motorcycles in the background, is that Cage's bulging eyeballs and throaty yell can't carry a film on their own. And surprisingly, even an awesome heavyweight actor like Guy Pearce manning the supporting role doesn't change things much -- to say nothing of January Jones, whose blandness when she's not in Mad Men costume actually makes her casting kind of perfect. She plays Laura, the wife of Cage's character, Will Gerard, and her main purpose in the movie is to get raped ten minutes in. While waiting for her to regain consciousness in the ER, Will is approached by a guy named Simon (Pearce), who explains that he's part of a secret, vigilante group that exacts the kind of revenge on murderers and rapists that the law could never deliver. This service is provided under the auspices of saving the city from the chaos and decay that's overtaken it -- the city being post-Katrina New Orleans.
In order to signify that he's accepted Simon's offer, Will is told to complete his first of many slow, convoluted tasks, this particular one being to spend what feels like 20 minutes buying two candy bars out of a vending machine. Vague missions like this are assumedly meant to deliver surreptitious messages in code, and after the organization kills his wife's assailant, he's asked to repay the favor by fielding more and more secretive cell-phone calls and carrying out more and more mundanely clandestine orders (Walk into a store. Buy a pack of gum. Walk out the back entrance. Force the audience to sit through all of it in real time.) until Simon finally orders him to push a man off an overpass. The big question of what's really going on and why these so-called seekers of justice seem inexplicably suspicious (let alone why it would behoove them to trust a total non-professional with something as easy to mess up as killing a guy) is not an issue that the scriptwriters apparently felt was necessary to answer. You're supposed to chalk it up to "suspension of disbelief," which would probably be easier to do if more interesting things were happening, or at least if the film seemed to have a sense of humor about itself. Instead, the movie seems to turn down opportunities for fun and creativity at every chance, leaving nothing but vast spaces to fill with boredom, disappointment, and Cage's bulging eyeballs.