Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Have you ever felt frustrated by the justice system? It's a common enough reaction, especially when one looks at crimes like rape, where trials can be traumatic and conviction rates are very low. In these circumstances one might easily feel drawn to the idea of going it alone, or of working with some vigilante group to exact revenge. Any number of films exploit these feelings. Justice, unluckily, is billed as more of the same. But it's actually a film about what happens afterwards and, though still nothing special, much more interesting for it.

Nicolas Cage is Will, a schoolteacher traumatised after the violent rape of his wife. Sitting in the hospital waiting room, he is approached by a sharp-suited man (Guy Pearce) who calls himself Simon. Simon says that he can arrange to have the rapist killed. Does Will want it? If so, all he'll owe them is a small favour. It's clearly a dangerous bargain, but Will is a desperate man. Of course, the favour turns out to be rather bigger - and the organisation rather more sinister - than he had imagined.

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Justice is refreshing in its handling of rape, tackling many of the cliches of the genre head-on. Will's wife Laura (January Jones) is badly shaken to begin with. She wants new locks on the doors; she buys a gun. But she gets better. She's a smart woman who retains her agency even as Will loses his. She worries about his trauma. Though the script doesn't always give her much to work with, Jones makes the most of it and presents us with a character who is much more than a convenient source of motivation for a man. This gives the film room for a few more twists and turns; there's a noirish aspect to it which, in places, elevates it beyond run of the mill thriller territory.

Cage's performance is also uncharacteristically strong. He keeps it low key at all times, very much an ordinary guy out of his depth, and is consequently much easier to root for when he faces moral dilemmas and when he's in immediate peril. Unfortunately he's let down by a script which, whilst it's mostly well structured, contains some painfully clunky lines. Its conspiracy-paranoia theme is cheesy and poorly thought out. One cannot imagine that Will would let any of his students get away with turning in a story that had such a weak ending.

Justice contains some good ideas and really has its moments, but it should have amounted to more than this. Still, if all you're after is a passable Saturday night thriller, you could do a lot worse.

Reviewed on: 07 Nov 2011
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Traumatised by an assault on his wife, an ordinary man makes a Faustian bargain with a vigilante group.
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Director: Roger Donaldson

Writer: Robert Tannen

Starring: Nicolas Cage, January Jones, Guy Pearce, Harold Perrineau

Year: 2011

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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