Monday, 14 November 2011

Justice review

Justice (15, 104 mins)
Director: Roger Donaldson
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

The original title of this batty thriller was The Hungry Rabbit Jumps, a coded phrase that crops up early as we open on a man being secretly filmed while being questioned by persons unknown.

Moments later he’s in his car and being pushed off the roof of a car-park by another vehicle, and how these events are connected with husband and wife Will and Laura (Nicolas Cage and January Jones) soon becomes clear.

He’s a New Orleans teacher and she a musician whose lives are turned upside down when Laura is brutally assaulted. Will is approached by someone calling himself Simon (Guy Pearce) who says he’s with an organisation who will “take care” of the problem. After a bit of thought, it’s an offer Will accepts, and sure enough, Laura’s attacker ends up dead, killed by the husband of a previous victim of crime.

But, just like in The Godfather, Will may be called upon by Simon to provide a service, which starts out innocuously enough, just deliveries and observation. But soon he’s being asked to murder a suspected criminal as payback for the service provided for him, and if he refuses, things are likely to turn very nasty indeed for Laura and him.

Vigilantism always makes for an interesting and provocative subject matter, though one that’s rarely treated well by modern movies. But Justice doesn’t really ask any moral questions of the audience, preferring to quickly turn into the usual innocent man wronged tropes.

It also doesn’t take very long at all to go from silly to preposterous. It’s one of those daft thrillers where practically everyone in it is part of a network of operatives, a springboard for moronic twists that provide absolutely no clue just whose side Xander Berkeley’s cop is supposed to be on.

It’s cheap looking and over-egged when it’s being serious, and twee and unconvincing when it’s trying to be a bit lighter, and all you really get in the way of excitement is shady guys watching and doing things unseen and some extremely low rent chases.

Cage in normal guy mode is like Fun Bobby from Friends when he’s sober – just not enjoyable for anyone to be around, and you realise you miss the wacky, off the wall Cage, who at least brings a certain manic energy to films that are invariably rubbish anyway.

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