An action thriller that begins forgivably, gets a bit silly and then utterly collapses, Justice is a film that mistakes Quirks for Complete Undermining Of Tension. Case in point: don’t call your baddie Simon. Even a baddie called Simon played by Guy ‘steel-eyed’ Pearce is, at the end of the day, still a baddie called Simon. Just saying.
Nic Cage does his frowny acting as Will Gerard; a man who has it all and is, therefore, definitely about to lose it. We meet Will and wife Laura (January Jones) on the night of their anniversary (they must be happy); Will gives her a lovely necklace (they must be super happy) and they dance their no-troubles away in a jazzy club in a post-Katrina New Orleans (happiness in the face of adversity?). The next day Will goes off to teach underprivileged kids about Shakespeare cos that’s the kind of man he is, Laura goes off to her lovely cello rehearsal because that’s the kind of woman she is and Guy Pearce hasn’t turned up yet because he’s the bad one and we don’t need any insights into the kind of man he is. Essentially, it’s all going well; the kind of well things go in a Nic Cage film before, out of nowhere, all the Bad Shit goes down. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, Bad Shit goes down.
Will is called to hospital after Laura is attacked and raped in her car, and whilst numbly waiting for the police to show up he’s propositioned by an elegant stranger. An elegant, sinister kind of stranger that promises Will he and his organisation can deliver the kind of justice the police are unable to provide. Justice that involves a violent, secret death and absolutely no consequences, probably. Shaken, horrified, vulnerable and full of Nic Rage, Will eventually agrees to Simon’s (we told you) offer, and is almost instantaneously informed of the rapist’s untimely demise. Satiated, if a little shaken, Will is left with one warning – that at some point he himself may be called upon to do a favour. A phonecall, a delivery, something like that. Except, obviously, it won’t be anything like that. It isn’t long before Nic’s number is up and he’s given his task: to commit a murder himself. And despite his lukewarm protestations, it soon becomes clear that Simon’s the kind of guy who expects you do what he says.
The central premise of Justice – that when the police fail it’s up to the citizens to defend their city – is a perfectly solid one, though it has to be said that Guy Pearce doles out the offers we can’t refuse with significantly less charisma than Brando. In fact, the first third of Justice zips by with relative speed and intrigue, but soon begins to falter under the weight of its own set-up. Hinting at moles within every organisation, links with the police, newspapers – an entire, powerful underworld of justice-bringers, it simply doesn’t give itself the time to build a slick air of paranoia (see Fight Club), but neither does it bring enough action to batter its way through its plot-holes (a la Expendables). Instead, it’s forced to resort to ridiculous, half-hearted set pieces and hurried tidying away of loose ends in order to gambol towards a fairly stupid conclusion (spoiler: if in doubt, end with Massive Shooting).
January Jones does very little except look a bit sad (you may remember this from her characters in ANYTHING AT ALL), and though Nic certainly tries a bit harder than he does in Trespass, you can’t shake the feeling that behind his tortured, why-god-why-me eyes you can see the golden glint of yet another easy pay cheque. At the end of the day, it’s another Nic Cage film, and if you want to watch another Nic Cage film where Nic Cage goes hard in a post-Katrina New Orleans, you could do worse than watching Bad Lieutenant. Wait, which one were we talking about?