Indie Snapshot: Seeking Justice and The FP

by Ethan Alter March 16, 2012 5:31 pm
Indie Snapshot: <i>Seeking Justice</i> and <I>The FP</i>

Requiem for a weirdo.

Seeking Justice
By now, it's an open secret that Nicolas Cage is completely in on the joke his career has become. His played-to-the-rafters performances in bad movies like Drive Angry and Knowing and even halfway decent ones like Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant reboot and the National Treasure adventures are obviously calibrated to appeal to that portion of the population that enjoys watching him go bugfuck insane for their amusement. Even Cage can't maintain that kind of manic energy all the time though, which is how we end up with a film like Seeking Justice, a bland revenge thriller with the actor's blandest star turn since he sleepwalked through Bangkok Dangerous four years ago.

A strange mash-up of Death Wish, Fight Club and that old Stephen King short story "Quitters, Inc.," Seeking Justice casts Cage as New Orleans high school teacher Will Gerard, whose peaceful existence is thrown for a loop when his beautiful wife Laura (January Jones) is beaten and raped one night on her way home. Later, in the hospital, Will finds himself sitting next to a well-dressed man named Simon, who tells him that he can arrange to have the attacker found and punished through an underground vigilante network he's established that operates outside of the state's justice system. All Will has to do is signal his assent and the man will be killed. While no money changes hands, he will still accrue a debt that needs to be repaid... by killing a criminal that's harmed some other ordinary citizen. In time, Will learns that half of the population of New Orleans seems to be in on this scheme, including journalists, the cops and potentially even some of his own friends.

In both its style and execution, Seeking Justice is distinctly direct-to-DVD, despite the presence of legitimate actors like Cage, Pearce and, cough, Jones (hey, she's still really good on Mad Men and in that Tommy Lee Jones Western that nobody remembers) and the guiding hand of director Roger Donaldson, who has made some genuinely great movies (No Way Out, Thirteen Days and The Bank Job) alongside formulaic studio crap (Species, Dante's Peak, Cocktail -- yeah, yeah we watch that last one whenever it's on cable, too, but it's not a good movie). This one is pure formula as well, but it's executed with little sense of style or fun. Instead, it adopts the grim, taciturn manner exuded by its leading man in every scene. The only flash we see of Wacky Cage is a scene where he decks a high school punk in full view of other students and faculty members. (This moment, of course, recalls the immortal scene in The Wicker Man when a bear suit-clad Nic punches a woman right in the kisser. Man, what an awesome movie.) That's the Nic Cage we know and love, not this dour automaton whose main motivation is cashing a paycheck.

The FP
Casa de mi Padre isn't the only disappointing low-budget spoof hitting theaters this weekend. (If it's not playing at a theater near you and you desperately want to see it, you can request a screening via the new website Tugg.) Fusing 8 Mile with a Rocky movie (specifically Rocky III), The FP imagines a dark future where rival gangs square off for... Dance Dance Revolution battles? Yup, that's gimmick at the heart of the Trost Brothers's feature-length debut. Made on a shoestring budget with a cast of no-name actors (including one-half of the filmmaking team, Jason Trost), The FP finds dynamite dancer JTRO (Trost) losing his nerve after his older brother dies following a particularly brutal dance battle. One year later, he's coaxed out of retirement to prevent a total takeover of the FP -- shorthand for Frazier Park, where these kids live and fight -- by a particularly vicious gang. Art Hsu takes on the Mekhi Phifer role as JTRO's promoter, while requisite love interest Caitlyn Folley cozies up to him in the same way Brittany Murphy made eyes at Eminem. While it's amusing at first to see these trash-talking bad-asses throw down by playing along to a video game, that joke gets old fast and The FP has nothing else in the tank to justify its existence as a feature-length film. The acting is stiff, the dialogue (much of which is shouted) is mostly incomprehensible and the numerous references to other movies aren't particularly well-executed. You'll have more fun hosting your own Dance Dance Revolution battles than watching The FP.

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