I've seen a lot of trashy exploitation films in my time. Some of them are even worth your time, if you're in the mood for a dark but mindless thrill ride.
But rarely have I seen a piece of pulp entertainment as consistently ridiculous as "Law Abiding Citizen."
Make no mistake. A lot of talent was wasted on this effort. We're talking about some seriously well-produced crap. It's as if they tried to remake "The Silence of the Lambs" after seeing all six "Saw" movies.
Gerard Butler, talking out of the side of his mouth to squelch his Scottish accent, is Clyde, a family man in Philadelphia whose wife and daughter are murdered before his very eyes. (This before the opening credits.) Jamie Foxx---looking distracted, as if he's reminding himself to call his agent and ask why he's not getting better scripts post-Oscar--Nick, the slick and pragmatic DA who makes a deal that allows one of the killers to go free after a short prison sentence.
Boom! Next thing we know, it's 10 years later--we can tell because the ladder-climbing Nick has designer suits and a smaller cell phone, and his wife has better hair--and Clyde has become the most dangerous killing machine in the history of mankind. Did he take some sort of extended Murder for Geniuses course, or was he a brilliant psycho before the murders? It has to be the former, because if it was the latter, he would have been able to prevent the murders of his wife and child.
Anyway. Even when Clyde is behind bars, he's orchestrating a series of revenge murders, taking out everyone who had anything to do with the case. I'll admit there are some quality kills here, including one shocker that will have audiences jumping from their seats. But once we learn how Clyde is bringing the city of Philadelphia to its knees, "Law Abiding Citizen" goes from implausible to "Let's insult the audience" territory. The only way for Clyde to keep killing is for a lot of supposedly smart people to act really, really, really dumb. And to be blind. And deaf. And from Mars.
Director F. Gary Gray knows how to film some outlandish action sequences, and we do get some good supporting work from Leslie Bibb (I'm always confusing her with Maggie Grace but I like both actresses), Regina Hall and Bruce McGill, among others.
But this is just a grown-up version of "Final Destination." It's all about showing one clever and brutal murder after another, interspersed with a lot of unintentionally funny speechifying about our corrupt legal system. Garbage in a slick package is still garbage.