Director Roger Donaldson has tried his hand at many different genres over the years; sci-fi (Species), disaster movie (Dante’s Peak), remake (The Getaway), comedy (Cadillac Man), historical epic (The Bounty) and ‘80s guilty pleasure (Cocktail) but one genre that he keeps returning to is the conspiracy thriller. His 1987 film No Way Out made Kevin Costner a star and was a tense Pentagon set thriller with killer twists. In 2003 he revisited the genre with the Colin Farrell and Al Pacino starring The Recruit which once again proved he was adept at handling the twists and turns of the genre. For his latest film, Justice starring Nicolas Cage and Guy Pearce released on Blu-ray and DVD this week, he returns for another crack at the conspiracy genre posing the question, what would you do?
High school teacher Will Gerard (Cage) lives a life of content domesticity with his beautiful wife Laura (January Jones) until one night’s horrific events turns their world upside when Laura is left for dead after being violently attacked. As Laura lays helpless in hospital with Will waiting anxiously at her bedside, he is approached by a well-dressed stranger, Simon (Pearce) who offers to dispense immediate justice to Laura’s attacker and save the couple from a traumatic trial. Confused and distraught, Will accepts the stranger’s proposal but soon learns that justice comes at a price.
Attempting the blend the vigilante thrills of Death Wish with a Hitchcockian Strangers On A Train twist, the film sets up an intriguing premise that sadly rarely raises the heartbeat. The script by newcomer Robert Tannen is so generic and by the numbers it fails to really get going and squanders the promise of a neat idea. Twists are signposted early on dampening any surprises and the film shares the production values and pace of average DTV fare.
Donaldson does his best with the material but it certainly does not match the quality of other conspiracy thrillers on his CV. The first half features some really tense scenes as Gerard fights his conscience to make a decision to accept Will’s offer. The idea that anyone could be involved with Pearce’s organisation is well handled but when Cage turns investigator in the second half, the pace falls flat and we enter the realm of implausibility. The brief action scenes are fairly stripped back by today’s standards, one of the most exciting sequences literally consists of Cage running across a busy freeway dodging traffic while being pursued by T-Dog from The Walking Dead (IronE Singleton). Donaldson manages to claw things back for a well executed finale that ramps up the tension before climaxing with a predictable shoot-out in an abandoned shopping mall.
Cage continues his career downward spiral with another odd choice by the one time Academy Award winning actor. With Justice and last week’s direct to video release Trespass following hot on the heels of Season Of The Witch, Drive Angry and Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance, Cage is desperately in need of a film to offer a return to form. Even with yet another silly wig and facial hair, his character shows little of the trademark unpredictability that made Cage a star and this seems to be just another paycheck gig for the once great actor. Pearce is also guilty of sleepwalking through the film but at least attempts to bring a decent amount of menace and threat to his character, giving a whole new, darker meaning to the phrase “Simon says”. January Jones makes the most of her small role but seems to be far too young for Cage making their relationship slightly less believable.
While initially offering an nice twist on the conspiracy genre the film fails to capitalise on an intriguing idea thanks to the bland script and generally weak performances from stars who should know better. Donaldson does all he can to keep the tension and thrills flowing but ultimately struggles to raise the excitement levels above lukewarm. If there is any Justice, Nicolas Cage will make this his last DTV flop and make a return to the edgy characters that we all want to see.
The Blu-ray presentation is pretty faultless. The image is sharp with a good depth of colour and a fine layer of grain that does not distract. While the film may have the feel of a DTV production the Blu-ray presentation certainly maintains the quality of a moderately budgeted studio picture. Similarly the sound is equally well produced with a clear dialogue track and sound effects having the desired impact.
There are no special features whatsoever on this release.
Film – 2 out of 5
Nicolas Cage continues his downward spiral and even Guy Pearce can’t save things in this generic take on the conspiracy thriller.
Visuals – 4 out of 5
Picture quality is excellent as you might expect from a recent release
Audio – 3 out of 5
The sound presentation is also very good but offers little chance to show off your system.
Extras – 0 out of 5
Presentation – 2 out of 5
As with the film itself the sleeve and menu design have a generic DTV feel.
Overall – 2 out of 5
Certainly not the worst of Cage’s recent films, Justice squanders a decent premise, lacks edge and is ultimately a disappointment.
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