Lacking thrills or any real excitement, 'Justice' squanders some great talent and a decent concept by letting Nicolas Cage turn in one of his laziest performances to date. He's been better, he's been worse, but he's never been this boring.
Another week, another quickie release for a Nicolas Cage movie. You might have missed 'Trespass' last week, we certainly did, but here is the intriguing-sounding revenge thriller 'Justice' for your viewing pleasure. Although the leading man has suffered a gradual decline in popularity over recent years, the fortunes of his co-stars January Jones and Guy Pearce are on the up.
Will Gerard (Nicolas Cage) is a New Orleans-based English teacher who is married to professional musician Laura (January Jones). Late one evening, Laura is brutally assaulted and left for dead. As her husband anxiously waits for updates at her bedside, a mysterious stranger (Guy Pearce) approaches Will and offers to take care of the attacker once and for all.
Will has lost faith in the justice system, and against his better judgement he rashly agrees to the vigilante action, by muttering the trigger phrase “when the hungry rabbit jumps”. Soon Laura makes a full recovery and Will thinks all his problems are behind him.
Unfortunately the rabbit has to jump again, and this time Will is going to be the one required to take action for the shadowy group. Saying “no” is not an option, and his family are placed in danger again, leaving him to take matters into his own hands.
Director Roger Donaldson is not only hampered by a dull title (it once had the infinitely more engaging name 'When The Hungry Rabbit Jumps'), he is also lumbered with a dull script and a lead actor obviously dialling it in.
In the past, the filmmaker has worked on entertaining fare like 'The Bank Job' and the superb Kevin Costner thriller 'No Way Out', but there is nothing even approaching fun in 'Justice'.
On a couple of occasions, the script looks to make something of its New Orleans location, but there is a lack of consistency in the way the recently ravaged city is used. It appears to be out of convenience that we are here with the cast and not by design.
To be fair, Pearce is at least giving it a go. His character is underwritten, but the talented actor still manages to convey a sense of menace when allowed to do so. He isn't given much to play off by Cage, which is a the biggest problem throughout the film.
The situation Will Gerard finds himself in should allow for a creepy sense of paranoia, but instead we get non-incremental outrage from Cage. We never empathise with him, and the character is so full of contradictions that we certainly don't care if he gets away with it in the end.
For example, why is he so keen to take out his assailants later on, yet still have signs of remorse over the man who so brutally attacked his wife?
A conspiracy element feels forced towards the end but that's the least of this film's problems. There are a number of better options in the cinema at the moment, and more worryingly there are probably better films coming out straight to DVD this week.
What tension there is, Cage manages to squander as he drones on and lumbers about on screen. It's a real shame to see a once talented and exciting performer turn in successively tedious characters without a hint of realisation. The 'ironic' Cage appreciation will surely be tested by this effort.
'Justice' is released nationwide on November 18. Certificate 15.