A couple of things. No, actually, just one thing. Justice is a terrible movie. Journeyman director Roger Donaldson has made some perfectly watchable pictures, Thirteen Days and The World’s Fastest Indian being two recent examples. But with Justice he has taken a serious misstep from his usual ordinary, yet satisfying formula.
Co-produced – trivia fans – by Tobey Maguire’s fledging Maguire Entertainment, the film stars Nicholas Cage as a New Orleans high school English teacher Nick Gerard whose wife, concert cellist Laura (January Jones we’re still not convinced) is viscously attacked and raped making her way home from practice one evening. In anybody’s book a violent, shocking set-up. Where we end up going is confused, lazy and full of misguided metaphors for a post-Katrina New Orleans.
As Nick waits in hospital, contemplating the brutal assault on his wife he is approached by Simon (Guy Pearce – ham-fistedly over the top). This stranger already knows who attacked his wife and how to, shall we say, put the situation right. Cue moral hand wringing but eventual acquiescence from Cage. Of course, Simon may ask for some small favour in return at some unspecified future date.
There’s a lot of room for manoeuvre in a high concept set-up such as this. Instead of teasing the audience with ever spiralling moral greys and compromised virtues, we get a so-called vast interwoven conspiracy of police and ordinary New Orleans professionals all bound together by the secret vigilante code word “The Hungry Rabbit Jumps”. Problem is this patchwork never once convinces in any respect and is severely hampered in its efforts to go anywhere thanks to a supremely clunky script, full of pedestrian dialogue, ridiculous red herrings, endless pointless runarounds and stupid parlour games. Did I mention a bad guy even wears crocodile shoes? Danger alert!
By the end, the spider’s web of ordinary citizens meting out justice, controlled by the nefarious Simon is actually faintly ridiculous – never sinister – not even for a second. And to top it all off, as you look ever more at your watch, we even get the villainous “justification lecture” by Pearce’s “Simon” at the end. Insult to injury springs to mind.