When a vicious home invasion takes a man’s family away, he turns to the legal system for justice. When that system fails him, he has to take matters into his own hands. It’s a good thing that he’s got more in common with Jack Bauer than your average homeowner.
Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is the only survivor of a brutal home invasion. He looks to the justice system to bring the perpetrators to justice. Up and coming hotshot lawyer Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) is given the task of telling Clyde that the city has made a deal with Darby (Christian Stolte), the worst of the two home invaders, that will allow him to get off rather lightly in exchange for his testimony against Ames (Josh Stewart), the other invader.
Clyde is of course incensed that the bad actor that was the one who murdered his wife and child is allowed to get off easy with a five year sentence, even if Ames is given the death sentence. Ten years pass and Nick has had a successful career with the district attorney’s office. It’s time for Ames to be put to death and Nick is there to witness his execution.
Something goes wrong with the execution and the only clue left is â€œCan’t Fight Fateâ€ scratched on a bottle of chemicals. When Darby is brutally tortured and killed (frankly he deserved it) all eyes fall upon Clyde – who is caught and put in jail. However, Clyde is just beginning to have his revenge against the system and no jail can hold his fury as those involved with the case start to die on the outside.
Law Abiding Citizen is equal parts vigilante movie and puzzle. At first I was all for Clyde taking his vengeance. Darby is a bit of human debris that plays the system and gets the tables turned so that he gets the lighter sentence that probably should’ve gone to his partner. In the course of events of the film, he eventually gets what he deserves at the hand of Clyde.
I didn’t exactly agree with Clyde’s actions in the case, but in some ways understood why he did them. The righteous vengeance plays out in the beginning of the film and if â€œthe endâ€ popped up after it then we’d not have much of a film.
The second half of the picture is a bit of cat and mouse as the incarcerated Clyde still appears to be orchestrating the deaths of numerous bystanders to his case. I’m surprised that he didn’t utter â€œdo you want to play a game?â€
It’s during this extended revenge portion that the film goes for bigger and better and ends up losing something. Of course, Clyde has some special ops background that comes to light and allows him to be the calculating bad-ass, but his extended revenge seems a bit off.
I suppose he has probably lost his mind from seeing his family slaughtered, but it comes off as a screenwriter’s trick to hatch some mystery, tension, and big action set pieces. It’s a bit over-the-top.
I can’t fault the performances as Gerard Butler portrays the sympathetic father and righteous avenger with equal intensity. Jamie Foxx is also good as the on one hand ambitious attorney and on the other hand family man – who can certainly understand Clyde’s actions. There’s a great scene where Foxx starts to threaten Butler before realizing that in doing so he would be just like him.
The acting is pretty top notch. It’s when the story starts getting too big that it loses something. On the other hand, there are parts where you can just pop the popcorn and get taken along with the storyline.
Law Abiding Citizen is presented in a 1080p high definition transfer (2.40:1). Disc one contains a 118 minute director’s cut and is exclusive to the Blu-ray set.
Special features on disc one include the 6 minute â€œJustice of Law Abiding Citizenâ€ has the discussion of the legal ramifications of the events in the film, the 15 minute â€œLaw in Black and Whiteâ€ is a making of, 7 minutes of â€œPreliminary Argumentsâ€ about the visual effects in the film, the 1 minute â€œMash-up Trailerâ€ winner, and the 2 minute theatrical trailer.
Disc two contains the 109 minute theatrical cut and has a commentary with producers Lucas Foster and Alan Siegel.
Law Abiding Citizen is equal parts Dirty Harry, Death Wish, with some sprinklings of Saw thrown into the mix. It’s an interesting popcorn action film, but some second portion over-the-top ideas don’t serve the film well. It does have some good work from its lead actors.