For Nicolas Cage, New Orleans has been a site of triumphs (Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans) and glorious embarrassments (Zandalee, his hilariously overwrought directorial debut, Sonny). Sporting some particularly unflattering facial hair and a pained look of desperation that seems to belong to the actor as much as the character he’s playing, he slinks back to the city for the abysmal revenge conspiracy thriller Seeking Justice. In spite of Cage’s Shakespeare-reciting, a promisingly pulpy premise, and locations seemingly hand-picked by the New Orleans tourism board for maximum clumsily integrated local flavor, Seeking Justice is ultimately as bland, undistinguished, and primed for a direct-to-video mass burial as its generic title. Seeking Justice was originally called The Hungry Rabbit Jumps after the cryptic code-phrase Cage and other members of a vigilante conspiracy use to identify each other, but a title that distinctively bonkers belongs to a far more entertainingly awful film than this vanilla snoozer.
Cage’s latest pay-cable-ready bottom-feeder casts him as a passionate, happily married English teacher whose orderly life is torn asunder when his wife (a terminally beige January Jones) is raped and beaten. At the hospital that night, a mysterious man (Guy Pearce) offers Cage an offer he really can and should refuse: Pearce’s shadowy organization will find and kill the rapist if Cage agrees to perform some unidentified favors in return. Cage agrees, only to discover that this nightmarish shadow cell promising instant justice might not be what it professes to be after all.
Cage’s egghead book-lover conveniently develops the survival skills and agility of a Navy SEAL once his life is in danger, but mostly, he spends Seeking Justice perambulating about New Orleans looking intense. Seeking Justice doesn’t progress or build momentum so much as it stalls, stalls, stalls, and bides its time, trying to stretch a short film’s worth of lazily telegraphed twists into 105 endlessly padded minutes. The film’s cynical use of rape as the pretext for its malfunctioning Rube Goldberg contraption of a second-hand premise is especially egregious and unearned. This thrill-free thriller doesn’t have the intellectual heft or moral authority to justify a plot driven by jaywalking, let alone something as ugly and emotionally loaded as sexual assault. To paraphrase a famous Mae West wisecrack, when Cage is good, he’s very good, and when he’s bad, he’s better. Here, however, he’s just plain lousy, and like the film he so passively carries, that’s no fun at all.