Law Abiding Citizen is the story of Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler), a man that in one moment lost everything he loved when his family was murdered during a home invasion. When the time comes for justice to be served, Clyde turns to Attorney Nick Race(Jamie Foxx), a lawyer more concerned with his 96% conviction rate than real justice. Nick’s concern about the evidence in the case forces him to go with a plea bargain rather than take the case to trail. The plea bargain sets one of the men that murdered Clyde’s family free and is the starting point for Clyde’s plan of revenge. The only problem for Clyde is that after killing his first victim, he must carry out the rest of his plan from a maximum security prison. With Clyde behind bars and the people that were responsible for the release of the man that killed his family still dying, it is up to Nick to play by Clyde’s rules in order to stop these killings.
For me this film is a thriller-horror crossbreed as it has little aspects of both genres, more or less it reminded me of the Silence of the Lambs series with Clyde being the overly intelligent killer. Though that is a lot to live up to for a movie, Law Abiding Citizen does fall short of reaching that status. It has everything you would expect from a movie of that caliber, two actors with great range, a well planned out script, and edge of your seat thrills. The only problem was that I never had the real sense that Clyde was the true “bad guy” and by the end of the film that is exactly what you are expected to feel. This fault is not the result of bad acting as both actors did a fantastic job, but this could be because Gerard Butler (300) was so believable as Clyde that I saw him as more of a hero rather than the villain they lead you to believe he is at the end of the film.
Butler was so much of a presence in this film that with out him, I don’t think I would have as strong of feelings for how good the film was. Butler put so much of himself into the role that it just seeps though the screen. At moments when he is asked to show emotion you can see the tears, when asked to play a father hearing news that his family’s killer is about to be let go, Butler looks physically sick. Butler is not alone in this film though and Jamie Foxx (Ray) plays the man looking to bring Butler to justice, this is where the problem is. Foxx plays Nick as a cold character that is unwilling to take responsibility for his actions. I am not saying that Foxx did a bad job in the role but that the way the character was written leaves a real lack of connection and left me with mixed emotions as the final scene played out.
Up until that final scene I was totally immersed in the film and it’s statements about our justice system and I had no problem with the amount of gore in the film. With the stand that the film takes on the justice system, it was hard to turn my feelings back to the men of justice when Clyde is ruthlessly killing them. With the lack of compassion from Nick, I could not turn my alliance back to him even when he is experiencing loss.
Over all the film was visually stimulating, shockingly gory, and entertaining. The only thing that keeps Law Abiding Citizen from being the full fledged thriller it wants to be is a lack of character development when it comes to our supposed hero. Just a few more scenes showing a real sense of responsibility by Nick would have taken the film to new heights rather than being the middle of the road shock thriller that it is.
I give Law Abiding Citizen 3 “I just had to kill a lot of people” out of 5.
by Ryan Davis