Sunday, October 25, 2009

Law Abiding Citizen

Year: 2009
Director: F. Gary Gray
Cast: Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx, Bruce McGill, Colm Meaney

When the justice system fails you, what do you do? In filmdom, it usually means that someone will take the law into his own hands and serve justice in the most violent way possible.

But here, in Law Abiding Citizen, the filmmakers take it a step further. It's not just about punishing the guilty, it's about punishing the system and the incompetent people who support it.

Gerard Butler plays Clyde Shelton, a happy family man whose world gets turned upside down when two robbers break into his home and kill his wife and daughter right before his eyes. Based on the evidence available, assistant D.A. Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) is unable to fully convict both the robbers, so he settles for sending one of them to the death penalty while the other one, who is the main orchestrator of the crime, walks away with a slap on the wrist.

Clyde is no doubt unhappy about this and pleads to Nick to do the right thing and bring both men to justice, but Nick refuses. Cut to ten years later, when one of the robbers finally receives his death sentence, but it doesn't go according to plan. What was supposed to be a routine lethal injection turns ugly and the guy dies horribly. Then his accomplice who escaped the law many years back is kidnapped and mutilated. By Clyde no less.

Nick and the police waste no time in bringing Clyde in and charging him for murder. However, Clyde has a few tricks up his sleeve. He manipulates the system and forces Nick to do as he says or he starts killing people. And even when he's behind bars, people who were connected to his family's case start to die. The defence attorney. The judge. And then Nick's colleagues.

Nick realises that he is up against someone extraordinary, someone who is smart and capable of anything, and isn't afraid to commit unspeakable acts. Can Nick stop Clyde on his mission of destruction?

F. Gary Gray directed an excellent film 11 years ago, called The Negotiator. That film, as far as cop thrillers go, is still unmatched in my book. That being said, Law Abiding Citizen is not Gray's best work, but I will say it is fairly decent. He knows how to bring out the best in his cast, and he always has the best actors to work with.

Foxx is good as the man desperate to stop the chaos unfolding before him, but it is Butler who brings the goods as Clyde, the man who is willing to do anything to bring the justice system to its knees. Some people have compared him to Hannibal Lecter and The Joker, but I feel that Clyde has a more noble motivation, and that is why he is the one you'd root for throughout the film.

However, the film needs an edge to be more memorable. It's lacking something. At first I couldn't put my finger on it, but now I think it's lacking a good amount of thrills and exceptional dialogue. You'll see Foxx and Butler spar verbally many times, but their dialogue needs an edge to make it stand out. The other supporting characters who get killed off are also not worth mentioning, which makes their deaths feel empty, and you won't sympathise with Nick at all, and root for Clyde instead. I think that's where the film fails to hit on an emotional standpoint.

It's a good thriller, and it's surely worth your time. Just keep in mind there are better films out there. (3.5/5)

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