Law Abiding Citizen

October 20, 2010

Law Abiding Citizen


I was never all that interested in seeing this film because I was quite confident that I knew exactly what was going to happen from seeing the trailer.  But I do try and watch every film with an open mind, and so that is what I did with this film.  It is an intense action-packed legal thriller, for lack of better description, but, unfortunately, it comes off feeling, as one of the people I saw it with put it, a Law and Order version of Saw.  It is predictable, and not nearly as smart as it thinks, and while I can understand how come some people really like it because you can get sucked up into the intensity and action and “righteous rage” that this film forces down your throat, it just leaves you with a hollow feeling when you’ve finished watching it.

The story starts out being very straightforward and not pulling any punches as you “see” the brutal murder of the main character’s, Clyde’s, family in front of him.  It then jumps to Nick Rice, the lawyer on the case, making a deal with one of the murderers, the worse of the two, in order to get a death row conviction on the other criminal and Clyde’s taking issue with them offering the one killer a deal.  Then jump to 10 years later when the death row conviction is being carried out, and the lethal injection goes wrong and the evidence points to the other killer.  The other killer is “saved” by an anonymous phone call which leads him to Clyde who is impersonating  a cop.  Clyde then starts his “righteous revenge” on everyone in the trial all as an attempt to prove that everyone should be prosecuted and get what they deserve.

What doesn’t work in this story is that, while you aren’t supposed to feel complete sympathy for Clyde, you can feel almost none because of the actions that he takes, and the whole message seems forced and contrived with how they reach it.  Also, the whole idea of the film is that the judicial system has too many loop holes and criminals can go free (which is unfortunate and sad) but Clyde has to break out of prison to actually get his revenge on everyone, therefore defeating much of his message because he can not deliver it from within the confines of the system and doesn’t apply the same rules to himself as he wants applied to everyone else.  Even if he doesn’t care if he gets death or not, he still doesn’t abide by the rules he wants to force into place.  It also doesn’t work because Clyde, to get all his devious and destructive ways was someone who he should hate.  He was a “brain trust” killer for the government, he could figure out ways to kill people without being seeing and would perform hits, basically, for the government.  So he was taking it to the opposite end, being judge, jury, and executioner all by himself (or based off of the information that others gave him).

The acting performances in this film were average.  Jamie Foxx, as Nick, does a good job and gives a solid performance.  Gerard Butler is the “star” of the film playing Clyde, and while he does have a sinister and evil vibe to him, the actual performance isn’t anything to write home about.  The rest of the cast plays very secondary roles, and no one really jumps out as being all that great.  This film is much less about the acting (or story) then the intensity that they create in the film.

Visually it is fairly disturbing and fairly strong.  There isn’t anything that blows you away with how the film is shot, but there are a couple of maybe intentional homages to Alfred Hitchcock and The Godfather.  Hitchcock was known for not showing the actual violence and killings and simply showing it through shadows or implying when it happens, and in this film, F. Gary Gray, the director, does something similar, avoiding showing the most gruesome scenes, but telling you exactly what happened in them.  He does, however, so much more than Hitchcock ever would have.  In terms of The Godfather, there is one point, early on in the film, when Clyde is killing off the second murder, that the story is juxtaposed with Nick’s daughters cello recital, I couldn’t help but think the whole time I was watching that it was fairly similar to The Godfather where it juxtaposes a baptism with the murders of all the heads of rival gangs.

Overall this film isn’t a bad film to watch, however, it isn’t anything all that special, and there are better revenge flicks out there.  It preaches it’s message way to much, and it pretends to be much more righteous than it actually is.  The fact of the matter is, Clyde is a sick demented character who pretended to have a point to his revenge but in reality there is no way that it was anything beyond revenge that would drive a person to become like Clyde.  I’d primarily say skip watching this film because there are better revenge films out there, and there is no other unique feature that makes this film worth checking out.

Entertainment Grade: C+

Critical Grade: D

Overall Grade: D+


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