Title: Law Abiding Citizen
Year of Release: 2009
Date Viewed: June 30th, 2010
MPAA Rating: R
Gerard Butler plays a man who takes the law into his own hands in Law Abiding Citizen. This thriller is sure to get some folks cheering, some squirming in their seats and some doing both.
Butler's character is Clyde Shelton, a seemingly average Joe with superb planning and inventing skills. On one ordinary evening, a pair of robbers break into his home. Before they leave, he is forced to watch one of them rape and murder his wife and then later murder his daughter. The two criminals eventually wind up in police custody. However, the justice is flawed as the one who committed the actual murder was only sentenced to five years while his accomplice was given the death penalty. It turns out that Clyde's lawyer Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) made a deal with the murderer that he would testify against his accomplice in exchange for a reduced sentence. A dismayed Clyde holds contempt for Nick and believes that he cares more about his personal conviction record than true justice. Nick claims his motivations were to lock both men up with an easier case rather than risk letting them both go free.
Ten years later, the murderer is found in twenty-five pieces on Clyde's property. Clyde turns himself in and makes no effort to hide the fact that he was responsible for the gruesome act of revenge. At first, Nick applauds Clyde for his brilliant planning and execution. Then he becomes uneasy after learning that Clyde's mission isn't finished. His war extends to the entire criminal justice system. Everyone linked to the system is now a potential target, including Nick. Even though Clyde is behind bars, bodies start to turn up everywhere and it leaves everyone wondering if they might be next.
I'm happy to report that this is Butler's best role in recent years. He avoids his typecast and delivers a memorable performance of a man with nothing to lose and rage that cannot be contained. Until now, I never imagined Butler being this scary.
Foxx's performance is mostly calm and collected. He does what is expected of him but is not given a lot of challenging material.
The story is intriguing due to the absence of clear-cut good guys and bad guys. Both Clyde and Nick want justice but they can't seem to agree on its definition. This might also ring true for the general public. If you were in Clyde's position, what will need to be done in order to help put your life at ease again? For some, seeing the wrong-doer get locked up and off the street so that he/she cannot harm anyone again may be enough. For others, it's necessary for the wrong-doer to be inflicted with an equal or greater amount of torture as revenge for the pain endured by the victim. The story may hit extra close to home for anyone who has ever felt betrayed by the justice system that is trusted to protect them.
All the makings of a modern-day classic are here. But there are lots of "only in the movies" moments that bring down its credibility. Questions like "How did he get the knife?" or "How did he do that silently?" will plague the more detail-oriented viewer. For the average viewer, the tension and unpredictable nature of the plot will be enough to leave them satisfied.
Law Abiding Citizen is a test in the form of a movie that measures how much personal vengeance means to you. If you find yourself cheering for all or some of Clyde's actions, you probably have a much tougher soul than mine.