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'Justice' review

By
Released on Friday, Nov 18 2011

Nicolas Cage


Revenge movies are ten a penny these days. You can't move for some poor schmo being done over by ruffians before going out and seeking retribution. Perhaps the upcoming Straw Dogs remake will draw a line under the revenge resurgence. Perhaps not.

Importantly, though, and despite immediate appearances, Justice (originally called The Hungry Rabbit Jumps and titled Seeking Justice in the States), isn't the obvious payback violenceathon the blurbs and trailers might suggest.

Nicolas Cage is Nick Gerard, a too-wonderful-for-words teacher of tough inner-city kids in post-Katrina New Orleans. In an early bit of ostentatiously-positioned dialogue with his best mate Jimmy (Harold Perrineau), we find out that he even took a load of kids on detention to watch an orchestra once. That's where he met his wife-to-be Laura (January Jones).

Narrleeenz being Narrleeenz, Laura gets attacked and raped in her car after a rehearsal while Nick and Jimmy play chess. As she regains consciousness, Nick bumps into the calm, collected Simon (Guy Pearce). Showing off his sharp suit and shaved head, Simon offers Nick the chance of justice. On seeing his beloved bloodied and bruised in her hospital bed, his answer is obvious.

It all goes a bit Taxi Driver meets a daisy-chaining Strangers On A Train briefly and there's the fleeting worry that we could end up in the territory of icky torture masquerading as righteousness. Thankfully, though, justice is swift and seemingly fair, but that's only the beginning of things.

Over the next two-thirds of the film as Laura aims to get her life together again, Nick gets unwillingly dragged into an impossibly dense - and rather silly - conspiracy. Layers of intrigue are stripped back - and we eventually find out what "the Hungry Rabbit Jumps" means (sort of).

The craziness and contrivances build up rather quickly, but while it would be easy to point and giggle, the couple of hours really do speed by. For all its flaws, Justice is a fast-moving thriller which teases tidy performances from its A-list cast in a slick B-movie set-up.

Pearce is convincingly disconcerting as the ambivalent agent of justice. Jones is equally impressive as the justifiably troubled wife striving to overcome her horrible ordeal. Of the supporting cast, Xander Berkeley steps in ably to keep things ticking over.

Cage is less easy to buy as the high school teacher with a heart of gold, but he wears his glasses and designer stubble well enough. Of course, when the low-key action sequences do kick in, he's perfectly capable of getting through them without his sensible clothes getting too creased.

Why this has been on the shelf for a couple of years is a mystery bigger than that at the heart of the film. You could argue that director Roger Donaldson (Cocktail, Dante's Peak) has wasted the dramatic potential offered by its early moral ambiguity - and Justice definitely does lose its way somewhat as the conspiracy unfolds. But, despite not being as clever as it might hope, this is still surprisingly sturdy stuff.


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