Gerard Butler Rages in ‘Law Abiding Citizen’

October 23, 2009 | Law Abiding Citizen Reviews

Law Abiding Citizen is a whirlwind of premeditated madness. Saw, Fracture and Seven seemingly team up for a mind-blowing (literally) series of sadistic murders coordinated flawlessly by the brilliantly conniving Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler).

In the beginning of the film, Shelton helplessly watches while his beloved wife and daughter are brutally raped and murdered by two criminals justifying their actions with the repeated phrase “You can’t fight fate.” Assistant District Attorney Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) is on the case; however, in an attempt to protect his adored 96 percent conviction rate, he makes the executive decision to have one murderer testify against the other with the promise of a minimal third-degree murder sentence, sending the least guilty of the attackers to death row. “Some justice is better than none,” Rice offers as explanation to a grieving Shelton, unknowingly underestimating the abilities of an angry CIA mastermind.

From here on out, coming to grips with the idea that Gerard Butler is capable of god-like acts will allow the remainder of the movie to be the type of entertaining thriller it is supposed to be.

The pandemonium begins and ends with a peaceful cello concert, which is representative of the film’s visually compelling use of juxtaposition and expert special effects. Ten years following Shelton’s loss, it is time for him to “do what he has to do,” and anyone involved with the trial instantly becomes a pawn in his own mesmerizing chess match. The game gets underway with an intellectual twist on capital punishment as Shelton rearranges the order of the drugs injected into the first attacker Rupert Ames, which are already carefully ordered to render the prisoner unconscious prior to paralyzing them and stopping their heart. The movie hardly gives the audience time to catch their breath before the malicious and unforgiving murder of the deserving second assailant, Clarence Darby. This is where it becomes brutally apparent that Shelton has transformed from a typical law-abiding citizen into a man forced to surrender to his dark side. This is also where Shelton strategically surrenders to the system that has failed him, allowing the remainder of his monumental revenge to unravel while he makes himself comfortable in prison.

Butler undoubtedly fulfills his “biblical” promise. As the film progresses, the question quickly shifts from “which characters are going to die” to “in what graphic and psychotically twisted way is the next character going to be killed?”

It isn’t until Rice secretly meets with a CIA operative that he realizes Shelton’s full potential and exactly the magnitude of their current situation. Recounting the death of a Pakistani warlord who Shelton had managed to murder using a necktie, the informant makes the message clear: If Clyde Shelton wants someone dead, they already are.

However, this pair does not meet your stereotypical good-guy, bad-guy standards, as the entire movie is a back-and-forth roller coaster of who to root for next. One minute it is simple to find sympathy for a man who lost everything trying to straighten out an arrogant Rice and an imperfect judicial system, while the next minute you are yearning for Rice to finally outsmart Shelton and his seemingly relentless actions.

Interestingly enough, the leading men, who were clearly casted correctly in the film, were originally casted in opposite roles. Developed by Butler and his production company, the movie’s initial plan had Butler playing the role of Nick Rice. It wasn’t until the last minute that Foxx agreed to switch roles based on Gerard’s previous outstandingly violent role in 300.

Law Abiding Citizen: totally believable? Maybe not, but after embracing the fact that Hollywood is the only place where unstoppable intellectually-powered revenge can overpower the world’s criminals, the full experience of this movie is be enjoyable. And, Gerard Butler thrives as the ultimate badass he deserves to be.

Publication: The Cornell Daily Sun
Author: Erin Keene

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