Despite the excessive violence and the critical manhandling, Law Abiding Citizen still managed to pull in $21.3 million at the box-office this weekend and it is actually an entertaining experience if it is looked upon in the right way. This is an example of film that can be either glorified or ruined based upon the audience’s expectations. If you go into this film expecting a smart, intelligent thriller, you will be more than disappointed. On the flip side, if you go in looking for a preposterous, hilarious, blood-filled thrill ride, the film will certainly make for an entertaining 108 minutes.

Not even two minutes into the film, Clyde Shelton’s (Gerard Butler) wife and daughter are brutally murdered. Next, we meet to Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), a lawyer more worried about his conviction rate than who he keeps off the streets. In fact, out of the two men who were involved in the Shelton killing, only one of them is sent to death row because of a deal that Rice cut with the “head” killer, Clarence Darby (Christian Stolte).  

After these two introductions, we are thrust ten years into the future where Clyde is about to enforce his attack on the justice system. He then goes on to commit murder after murder and in pretty entertaining fashion. The film sort of takes Cape Fear and raises the stakes to an improbable extent. There are also some scenes between Butler and Foxx that contain some of the most quotable dialogue of the year. Butler has some lines in this film that are so outrageous you can’t help but laugh.

This is a film that works best when it isn’t taking itself too seriously. There is a particular scene involving an actor named Michael Kelly in which his character basically explains Shelton’s motivations and background in about two minutes. This is a kind of scene that compromised the experience for me in a big way. Up until this point, director F. Gary Gray did such an impressive job of making a completely illogical film that when he inserted this scene to try and explain everything, I felt disappointed. That being said, this is not a completely stupid film in its own right. In fact, I was actually more than impressed with the ending. It is a very clever and unexpected conclusion and for that I was baffled at how many different emotions this film made me feel.

It seemed to me that Butler and Foxx had pretty tough characters to play and they both do solid jobs, particularly Butler. The motivation of Butler’s character isn’t solely to invoke revenge on his family’s killer and his lawyer, but he wants to prove a point about how corrupt and dysfunctional our justice system really is. That being said, it’s tough to look at his character and not actually like him a little bit. On the other hand, it is very tough to sympathize with Jamie Foxx’s character because he is the person that is supposed to portray the corruption. It’s a tall order that the film sets itself up for and it doesn’t quite bring its intriguing premise to full life.

One of the things I have thought about the most since I saw this film is what the director’s intent was. Did he want to create a smart, moralistic crime drama, or did he realize that the movie is an illogical piece of entertainment? Because it really is the latter and I would even go as far as to say this film contains some of the funniest moments of 2009. I just pray that the people making this film realized how laughable most of their hard work was going to turn out on the big screen.


Candice Frederick said...

I REALLY wanna see this. and the violence seriously draws me in

Danny King said...

@ Candice: I would say that if you're looking forward to the violence, then you will most likely enjoy the film.

Anonymous said...

I'll be avoiding this, the trailer looked ridiculous and the other advertising didn't help.

Danny King said...

@ Anon: The trailer is pretty ridiculous. If by any chance you laughed at any of the moments in the trailer -- like some of Butler's ridiculous lines -- then you might have some fun with this one, but if you want an intelligent piece of filmmaking, stay away!

DEZMOND said...

at least Gerard looks quite amazing in the posted picture :)

Danny King said...

@ DEZ: Ha, no doubt about it.

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