When the wheels of justice move, it takes Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler to stop it…maybe (blog)

October 28, 2009 | Law Abiding Citizen Reviews

Hey there everyone. I see that people have mostly only been checking out my “Women of the 80’s” and “The Hangover” posts in the time since I last posted anything. This isn’t the topic that I had originally intended to return with (that one will be forthcoming), but having just got back from watching LAW ABIDING CITIZEN, I felt the need to immediately write up some thoughts about it.

First of all the ironic twist – in my life, not in the movie, so no spoilers – is that two years ago I had my own little kerfuffle with the law. A policeman got a little over-zealous and well, it wasn’t pretty. Well, today marks the second time that I’ve now seen that same police officer, directing traffic. Is it the same as blowing up half the city and killing lots of people? No. But, I felt vindicated.

Anyway, LAW ABIDING CITIZEN is the new movie from director F. Gary Gray – THE ITALIAN JOB – and screen-writer (and sometimes director in his own right) Kurt Wimmer (EQUILIBRIUM and the not so good ULTRAVIOLET). The story focusses on Clyde Shelton (Butler), who is an inventor and uber-genius, government hitman. In the beginning of the movie, his family is attacked and his daughter and wife are killed. The setup for the movie moves pretty quickly, this tragic event is over in a matter of minutes. We’re then introduced to hot-shot prosecutor Nick Rice (Foxx), who we learn is gunning for the big job of District Attorney, and in order to keep his perfect conviction record, he strikes a deal with one of the guys who killed Clyde’s family. Then the movie cuts to ten years later, and that’s when the action begins.

The movie is a little bit TAKEN and a little bit SEVEN (the Brad Pitt movie, for those not paying attention), it’s also in the same vein as another – little seen, I believe – recent Gerard Butler movie called SHATTERED; where Butler’s character is put in a weaker position and has his family in jeopardy under the guidance of a man with a gun to his head. That man, by the way, is Pierce Brosnan (just to get further off topic, that was their second time in the same movie – as Butler had a role in TOMORROW NEVER DIES, but they didn’t perform together there). Anyway, after ten years, Clyde makes his movie in getting justice from both the actual killers of his family and the unjust court system, that allows killers and indecent men to go free (if not immediately, much sooner than they probably ought to be).

Clyde’s plan is genius. He manages to stay quite a few steps ahead of Nick through most of the movie, and there’s some pretty awesome/gruesome/messed up stuff that happens in this movie. The reason that this movie manages to be so compelling and – to be honest – pretty damn good, is that the character make choices. They’re not the right choices – from our seats, obviously – but they’re the logical choices. When a man sitting in a jail cell says he’s going to bring down the entire city unless you bring him an iPod and a steak by 6pm, you say, “screw off” and deliver the food at 6:10. Then, after the city is coming apart, you say, “damn, should have brought it sooner.” As the movie goes on though, it does start to wander off the path, and I have to admit that the ending is weak in that it shies away from letting the man who is only brought down by a ghost in the machine-like deus ex-machina, and has one of the characters seemingly damning himself; or at least leaving us in that limbo of whether it’s ever appropriate to kill someone for the greater good, or what the consequences of doing something like that.

Butler is pretty great as Clyde Shelton. There’s a look in his eyes that allows you to believe that he could be this man, and that tiny bit of cockiness that he exudes shows us that he has the confidence to do exactly what he says he will. Foxx has the most work to do, and is really the least appreciated role in the movie, probably. He has to work with Clyde, he has to react to what Clyde does, he has to protect his family and friends, and though we spend more of the movie with him than with Butler, he’s not quite as engaging of a character. At least until the end, where it looks like he might be making the step that is alluded to earlier in the movie.

The supporting cast is full of faces old and new. We’ve got Bruce McGill, Colm Meaney, Leslie Bibb, Viola Davis and a whole slew of new faces. They all do great jobs. Davis is polar opposite from her performance in DOUBT. Bibb is showing herself to be a great actress, and hopefully she’ll start getting some larger roles – and ones that don’t feel the need to comment on her legs or other body parts. My only major issue with the movie, that for whatever reason just stuck with me, is how Colm Meaney and his seeming partner (Michael Irby), start off as homicide detectives, wind up police bodyguards and then add another task (not spoiling anything) that just seemed like it was put in there so we didn’t have to have any more characters. Not a big deal, but it bothered me.

Overall, the movie is exciting. It brings Gray back to form like with his early movie, THE NEGOTIATOR, which had a similar setup with Samuel L. Jackson as a hostage negotiator who takes his own hostage and how he’s able to out-maneuver the man sent to talk him down, in this case the man is Kevin Spacey, by the way. That movie was tense and also not the most brilliant of movies, but it’s engaging and keeps you on the edge of your seat. And sometimes that’s all I need.

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