Law Abiding Citizen Entertains

October 16, 2009 | Law Abiding Citizen Reviews

[i]Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx deliver solid performances in a film designed to entertain.[/i]

“Pure entertainment.”

We generally turn to movies for one of three things: entertainment, education, or enlightenment. The Oscar films usually toe the divide between entertainment and enlightenment, biopics offer a spoonful of education, and the summer blockbusters are pure entertainment. The film in question, Law Abiding Citizen, is pure entertainment too, nothing more, nothing less. You won’t learn anything or have to consider any new concepts … it’s just a pure “July” style of film placed smack dab in the middle of October.

To talk about the plot of Law Abiding Citizen, even a little bit, is pretty much to get into spoilers. So, beware!


Gerard Butler is a husband and father. He’s brutally attacked at his home by a couple of goons, and his wife and daughter are murdered. Jamie Foxx is the assistant district attorney charged with seeking justice. He cuts a deal with one of the murderers (technically, the less guilty one), much to the chagrin of Butler. Gerard wants everyone involved to face punishment, but Foxx tells him some justice is better than none. You can imagine how well Butler receives this line. Ten years pass (time enough for Butler to scheme) and we’re off!

Where Law Abiding Citizen thrives is with the leads. Foxx is a slightly unlikable “hero” while Gerard Butler is a slightly empathetic crazy person. Who you pull for depends on the scene; you vacillate between cheering on Butler’s psychotic reign of terror and worrying about Foxx’s general safety. The film also moves along nicely, and Butler’s know-it-all persona is a gas to watch.

Another area Law Abiding Citizen works is the various juxtaposition scenes. To clarify, and for example, the film will cut back and forth between a guy in the death chamber and a little girl’s cello recital. It’s surprisingly effective and visually compelling. Butler’s various one-liners are big fun too, from his namechecking of von Clausewitz to his quip, “Lessons not learned in blood are soon forgotten.” Somewhere in there Butler starts making sense, but as he’s portraying a true monster there’s a bit of tension associated with that realization. I should at this point admit that the movie is chock full of logic problems, but somehow it remains internally consistent within its own framework. Gerard Butler is capable of God-like things, and if you buy into that premise the actual details of the equation shouldn’t provide too much distraction. The film is smart enough to use numerous lies of omission instead of showing flat-out illogical happenings.

I’d say Law Abiding Citizen is a worthwhile ticket buy. It has the feel of a film that’s on cable during a rainy Sunday that you wouldn’t pass by with the remote. The leads are dynamic, the story is relatively unpredictable, and the film has strong dialogue and action throughout. Sure, it’s outta place for October, but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a mindless piece of candy against the backdrop of fall foliage.

Grade: B

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