Movie Review: Law Abiding Citizen

October 16, 2009 | Law Abiding Citizen Reviews

The night after watching the recent horror release Paranormal Activity, I found myself having some difficulty getting to sleep as every sound in the house roused my attention. While Law Abiding Citizen is not the kind of film to stick with you like that, there is a moment involving a cell phone that will have me thinking twice before answering for a couple of days. That may be the only thing about this thriller that will leave any kind of lasting impression on me, but it did succeed in keeping me thoroughly entertained for a good two hours.

Jamie Foxx plays Nick Rice, your typical, overly ambitious attorney with too much attention paid to his conviction rate and too little paid to his wife and daughter. When the film opens, he is prosecuting two men who murdered another man’s wife and daughter. When a piece of evidence falls through, Nick makes a deal with one of the murderers who will testify against the other in exchange for pleading guilty to a lesser charge. This deal doesn’t sit well with Clyde Shelton, the grieving husband and father who certainly knows how to hold a grudge.

Ten years later when the convicted murderer is being executed, something goes wrong causing the lethal injection procedure to go from pain-free to cruel and unusual. Next, the man who made the plea bargain is brutally executed in an abandoned building owned by Clyde, who is then arrested and taken to prison. If granted certain seemingly harmless luxuries in prison, Clyde is willing to give Nick a full confession. Little does Nick know, however, that Clyde has only just started to execute a revenge plan he has been working on for a decade.

During the film’s opening ten minutes, I found myself immediately concerned that the film was going to be a large disappointment as it felt stale; as if it were constructed out of bits and pieces of other films. There’s even a piece of dialogue that seems to come straight from the mouth of Tom Cruise’s character in A Few Good Men.

Once Clyde was imprisoned, however, I found myself getting more and more intrigued as I tried to decipher his game plan and execution. The questions I were most curious about–a plot involving his cellmate and another about his mysterious accomplice–were both answered by one big plot twist that is exciting, if not altogether believable.

The biggest logic question I had exiting the theater had to do with the prison where Clyde is being held as it is crucially important to the plot. I’m not altogether familiar with the prison system, but it seemed like Clyde was being held in a cellblock with convicted felons, whereas his trial had hardly even past the bail hearing (one of the film’s best scenes).

It is certainly hard to believe that even with ten years to formulate his plan, one man would not be able to put together such an elaborate revenge scheme against the entire legal system. Still, I credit Gerard Butler for bringing so much panache to the role that I found myself actually rooting for him more than I was Foxx and the true law abiding citizens. Butler plays Clyde like if Hannibal Lector could control the goings-on outside his asylum as if it were a video game.

Law Abiding Citizen is directed by F. Gary Grey, who has a solid track record for action thrillers and keeps everything moving here. He does a good job of slowly bringing along the evidence that would eventually lead to the film’s big revelation, so that it’s always in our mind while not drawing enough attention to it that the audience gets ahead of the story.

Despite questions of its logic, I really enjoyed this thriller. It kept me on the edge of my seat and always trying to figure out exactly where it was going. The final twist is a good one and it’s a lot of fun to watch two talented actors like Foxx and Butler go head to head.

Publication: Seattle pi
Author: Jeff Walls
Source:]Seattle pi

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