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Law Abiding Citizen (2009; Rated Rated R)

Law Abiding Citizen
D-
 

“Big stars rolling around in a garbage dump of cinematic excess.”

-Richard Roeper

Law Abiding Citizen Review

Law Abiding Citizen

(2009; R)

In theaters:
Friday, 16 October 2009

Summary: A brilliant man orchestrates a series of high-profile murders that grip the city of Philadelphia - all from inside his jail cell. The prosecutor assigned to his case realizes he is the only one who can end the reign of terror.

Genre:
Action, Drama

Director:
F. Gary Gray

Cast:
Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler

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.

COMMENTS(11)
 
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Wils said on Thursday, October 04, 2012 10:53:35 PM
I thought it was a good movie. I disagree with the entire review.

johnny nutsack said on Saturday, November 12, 2011 3:29:57 AM
I agree with your review. Looks like they shot everything in one take and weren't even putting anything into their performances. Cash the check and smile. Pathetic

Mindset CN-DA said on Friday, January 21, 2011 6:55:02 PM
Although this post seems quite late, for me it is perfectly timed having just seen the movie.
Having watched most of the Saw movies, the only reference I found was how "Clyde" murdered Darby and the fact that it was recorded.
It seemed it was for all people, legal or lay, to understand that there are injustices on either side. Shouldn't we be forced to think how we would react in any of the predicaments the characters were faced with? Nothing is impossible - If we can think of it, it can be done.

Vincent said on Thursday, July 22, 2010 10:29:04 PM
I give it a B Richard because I think that you don't give the premise or the performers enough credit. Jamie Foxx was good as Nick. There have probably been times in real life where prosecutors have had to make deals with sadistic killers that they would just LOVE to see get the death penalty. This film is no exception because you can tell that he regrets his decision, but realizes that it's the only play that he has in this case. And Gerard Butler as Clyde? Don't even get me started! He gave a great performance as a man who we sympathize with because he was forced to watch a psycho murder his family and do nothing about it, but who we don't want to win in the end because he plans on mowing innocent people down only because they are part of a sometimes imperfect system which is not always in their control. He gave a performance that was definitely worthy of an MTV Movie Awards "Best Villain" nomination and I really think that he got cheated. Yes, the film is not very realistic, but it shows what a man with these kinds of connections and choices could do if he was even that capable of them all. Until he started shedding the blood of innocent lives, I actually was rooting for him. I thought that he had a point. Specifically in the scene when he allows himself to be arrested and he is completely naked, he does that because they already know what he is capable of, but that he is not a danger to anyone close at the time. The scene where Nick visits Clyde in prison to tell him that he is actually proud of him for executing the man who slaughtered his family is also pretty effective as well because it proves that as professional as he is, Nick is a human being who thinks in almost the same way (maybe not) that this killer does by taking the law into his own hands. The point that Clyde proves during the arraignment scene is also well-written and as for that one kill in the movie that will shock all audiences, (I think that I know which one you are talking about) it certainly got that kind of reaction from me too!

Edill Colon said on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 9:07:25 AM
I just saw it with some friends who loved it. I hated it at the point the attorney never asked for the confession before he gave Butler the bed. It tries to steal from the dark knight's Joker, and most of the way a thought it was Fracture by Anthony Hopkins done very very dumb. It has a great visual at the end when the walls burned but the best way to some the movie's intelligence is said i think by the mayor to Fox's character " I should fire you but i am promoting you" WOW an orchestra full of nuns commited suicide on good friday. Thats how awkard and wrong this movie felt. An insult to the audience is little to what it felt like. Rage kept building on how retarded the DA was acting.

Andy Craig said on Sunday, March 07, 2010 12:15:04 AM
Alright Mr. Roeper, I can see how you needed to trash this movie from the start. But I do believe you are absurd if you think they were making this movie for any other reason but entertainment. I don't believe at any time that Butler or Foxx, no matter how great of actors, thought they were going to receive any awards. It was a fun and different movie, and that's what would have appealed to them. For the majority of the population, who know nothing about any legal script or holes in the system, albeit a little over-exaggerated, the movie definetely held my interest. The cell phone gun fire stopped my heart briefly, which hasn't happened for a long time in any movie.

And yes, we do know that Clyde is a superhuman before the murder of his wife and child for two reasons. In the first two minutes, he was working on some kind of robot with his daughter by his side, and secondly, the conversation with the former co-worker clearly states that he was a "brain" for his previous employer. Is it because you had already given up on the movie to care about any of the details? Or were you just trying to be witty Mr. Roeper?

Anyways, I love your reviews, and we usually see eye to eye on most movies. I just thought the movie was a little more original than you made it out to be in your review. Thanks for reading

Snipshow said on Wednesday, March 03, 2010 11:11:27 PM
Pretty good review, I wouldn't have gone as low as D- but I can easily see that being done by Richard. Two huge flaws (among many) that stood up and slapped me in the face really brought this movie down. The first is the arrest of Clyde. Why did he take his clothes off and stand naked when they came? Seaner said he interpreted the scene as that he was trying to show that he was not a threat, which seems naive to me. Honestly that was nothing more than getting a ass shot of Gerard Butler to entice the female audience, nothing more, nothing less. The second is a recurring problems in most movies involving lawyers, reporters, etc. The lawyers somehow are on the frontline of a police investigation arriving at scenes of crime before the police themselves. They should really just bit the bullet and make the character a cop instead assuming the audience won't care that it doesn't make any sense.

junierizzle said on Tuesday, December 22, 2009 9:34:24 PM
I knew this was trash. It's cool though, because it wants to be trash. It wants to be one of those classic action films from the 80's. I was going along for the ride, then the ending was just too unbelievable. It didn't make sense with the rest of the story. Im not saying that I'm complaing about it's trashiness, but the ending at least has to fit the rest of the movie.

Sig_Guy said on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 11:43:15 PM
Pretty dead on review. As a criminal justice major, I hated this film with a passion.

Seaner said on Sunday, December 13, 2009 2:45:15 AM
He was standing naked to show he was unarmed, not a threat. Atleast thats what I read from the scene.

Yeah, the movie is silly. But I had fun.

First off, Butler is decent in this movie, and a solid reason to watch the movie. (Spoiler) Yes, his plot is beyond absurd, but I was rootign for him. That is the biggest flaw of the movie for sure. We are never given any reason to root for all those he pays back.

But for me good drama, or even bad drama can be elevated above a D- if it has atleast one scene, in the movie, that could have made all the horror not happen, if it played out differently.

This movie has that scene. When Bulter asks to make a deal, requesting a bed, and Fox says "^%^$ no" It would have been the end of his plot. But all of his aids say "what are you doing. We have no evidence. Make the deal!" Thus, he does. And the dung hits the air conditioner.

Bad movies often still have good themes that resonant after the bad taste lifts from our mouth. Justice means believing in a system that works. Not believing in it and making deals to protect ego is a tragedy I see happen everyday.

This was a work of fiction. Impossible, yes. Insulting, hardly.

 
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