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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.77%
Worth A Look: 12.77%
Average: 27.66%
Pretty Bad: 17.02%
Total Crap29.79%

5 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Law Abiding Citizen
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Erik Childress

"With Abiders Like This, Who Needs Criminals?"
1 stars

The question has been raised countless times. What would you do if someone in your family was killed? Or tortured? Or kidnapped? In the movies, if you are Liam Neeson you go around throat-punching everyone in your path. If you're Mel Gibson you either don't pay the ransom or just kill everyone whether in an apocalyptic future or the Revolutionary War. Everyone from Charles Bronson to Kevin Bacon to Jodie Foster have joined up to the vigilante ranks and whom among us haven't rooted for them to complete their vengeance on the bottom feeders of society? The newest candidate to become a member of this exclusive group is Gerard Butler and he's looking to branch out, blaming the system that allowed one of his family's killers to go free. Except we're not supposed to be rooting for him this time. Or are we? Law Abiding Citizen is a movie so confused in its moral stance and so completely insolvent in its plotting that it makes the Saw series look like a six-part training film for the new health care bill.

Butler plays Clyde Shelton, a family man who opens his door to a brutal attack on his wife and young daughter. At some undetermined point the perpetrators are caught and up-and-coming Philadelphia attorney, Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) is on the case. When one of the baddies turns on his partner, his sentence is pleaded down and Nick sees this as a victory. Rather than waste taxpayer dollars in court at the risk of both going free, they can give one the death penalty now and another five-to-ten. Clyde begs him not to do this, but Nick is adamant and the deal is done, complete with an unfortunate handshake that is caught by both the papers and Clyde outside the courthouse.

Cut to ten years later. Nick is now the assistant D.A. and the one thug has a date with a lethal injection. In a moment that would make Tim Robbins call a press conference, the baddie has a violent reaction to the drugs and it turns out they have been tampered with. Turns out that Clyde has reemerged with a grand master plan that begins here, continues with luring the released thug into a death that practically combines all the nastier bits of vengeance from Sin City and allows himself to be arrested - where the real plan begins. Clyde promises to give a full confession for the murders if Nick makes with him a series of deals; the kind that the system obviously grants all the time to the worst of the worst. They include a nice bed, a fancy lunch and a plea to release him for good otherwise he'll kill everyone associated with the case.

Before we get into the intricacies of Clyde's maneuvers and the "point" he keeps ambling on about, let's go back to the film's trailer which in part left it open to the suggestion that maybe Jamie Foxx was going to be the villain. He's talking all tough to the poor, hunky guy who had his family slaughtered. We're on Butler's side, right? Revenge is good. The only way a film of this type can turn us against the grieving father is if we were guilted in to disagreeing with him by means of some act where an innocent was cut in the crossfire. Perhaps if Law Abiding Citizen were intent to live within the grey areas and show us that every character was neither too guilty or completely blameless, we may have had an interesting discussion in-between the audience-pleasing carnage. Are we supposed to be pleased though? It's one of the many questions the ridiculous script by Kurt Wimmer never gets around to figuring out for itself.

Our sympathies are instantly drawn to Clyde's plight. Even as he's chopping off limbs and telling the paralyzed guy what's going to happen to his penis, we keep waiting for the cheer squad to ra-ra him on. Director F. Gary Gray though, while showing us the aftermath, shies away from the actual sawing. But then later graphically gives us throat impalement by Porterhouse bone and the cell phone moment every theatergoer has been waiting for since the first ring was heard in the dark. Since Clyde does quickly go off the deep end (poor young white girl), it needs to be examined how far his beef extends while he's working his way through the holes in the system. Who are these thugs and why was he attacked? It could have been just a random attack on a suburban street, but when its revealed that Clyde is actually a special forces tactician that the Munich Vengeance crew could have used, is it out of the realm to think he could have been setup? This is never addressed. Nor is how this random thug, a doper no less, was able to afford an attorney. Court-appointed you say? Fine, then how could a hotshot like Nick with a 96% conviction rate not take him on and win? What's his history? Did he study under Lt. daniel Kaffee from A Few Good Men and plea down every case put on his desk? Screw that guy. Right?

Wait a sec, though. Clyde has a "point." He keeps telling us this. It wasn't enough that he personally took out the baddest of the bad guys. He's taking this case all the way up to the Mayor, played by Viola Davis fulfilling her quota to show up as the angry black woman who has her own point to make. What is Clyde's "point"? Damned if I know and damned if you will either. As a film that practically requires to explain how Clyde is committing these acts - something that could have served as a clever satire of the time it takes Jigsaw to complete the same tasks - when you finally get to the answer, you should demand that Kurt Wimmer be present to deliver a handwritten legal brief at the end of every screening to finally deluge what he or Clyde was trying to say. If it took Andy Dufresne nineteen years to tunnel out of one cell, consider what has to be involved for one man to tunnel into EVERY ONE from a central location in ten. But wait, it gets better. The climax of the film, filled with the kind of dialogue inconsistencies that suggest someone either lost a page or got the reshoots mixed up, is an absolute doozy in unchecked idiocy and hypocrisy. Without going into great detail, it involves a bomb, a defusing squad warned that the bomber is watching, the transportation of said bomb powerful enough to take out two floors of a federal building (under the awareness that it could go off at any time) and the igniting of this bomb in a location without warning that presumably kills god knows how many people without any repercussion for "the good guy."

Basically nothing more than the Denzel Washington/John Lithgow faceoff from Ricochet in reverse mixed with a taste of the Saw pictures thrown in. Any of the goofball pleasures derived from the film's gorier elements don't go down quite as smoothly once the film's second half spirals into an icky amoral mess. Those unfathomably harsh on The Dark Knight's attitudes towards revenge and the ethical uncertainty of people in power playing by the rules to do the right thing should be forced to watch Law Abiding Citizen on a constant loop in solitary confinement. Anyone who enjoys this film and feels that the "point" had been made must sit in their own padded cell with nothing but a copy of the documentary Dear Zachary to see what a true miscarriage of justice looks like. I will recommend it solely to the real-life judge from that film though if only to make her forever skittish about picking up her cell phone again.

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originally posted: 10/16/09 15:00:00
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User Comments

4/07/18 Langano For people who like shiny things. 2 stars
9/14/17 morris campbell pretty good death wish clone 4 stars
9/21/10 true12 one of the best 5 stars
6/28/10 Jeff Wilder Sets up questions and avoids answering them. Foxx ok Butler weak. 2 stars
5/07/10 mr.mike Weak Foxx character undermined the movie. 3 stars
3/15/10 Raul Valdez Jr I liked the movie and hated the ending nice acting and cool action 5 stars
2/17/10 action movie fan death wish meets dirty harry in this engrossing revenge thriller which butler goes too far 5 stars
10/28/09 Salander Not involving, superficial and dumb movie form such interesting director. What a pitty! 1 stars
10/24/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Foxx character typical Philly affirmative action hire, which explains ultraviolent climax 4 stars
10/24/09 His_wife89 He said no way, kids cannot go to the park by themselves, even high school kids. , <a href= 5 stars
10/24/09 Crazy45 Notification ServiceThe notification service is a WCF Service listening to a Service Bus ev 4 stars
10/24/09 Merlin76 I'm averaging quite a few views each day so I would like my readers to be able to find me o 5 stars
10/23/09 Miss75 The plane was equipped with a weather radar too. , 5 stars
10/23/09 JXL23 She reports that she couldn't focus on the coursework until she got out of the classroom. , 4 stars
10/21/09 April May it was a sweet movie..i went to be entertained, and i was! i would watch it again! 4 stars
10/20/09 sephen breezy jadon it although highly entertaining in its build up ultimately its demise was the end basically 4 stars
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  16-Oct-2009 (R)
  DVD: 16-Feb-2010


  DVD: 16-Feb-2010

Directed by
  F. Gary Gray

Written by
  Kurt Wimmer

  Jamie Foxx
  Gerard Butler
  Viola Davis
  Leslie Bibb
  Michael Gambon
  Bruce McGill
  Regina Hall
  Colm Meaney

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