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Law Abiding Citizen (2009) **

February 17, 2010

Written by: Kurt Wimmer

Produced by: Gerard Butler, Lucas Foster, Mark Gill, Robert Katz, Alan Siegel, and Kurt Wimmer

Directed by: F. Gary Gray

Rated R for strong bloody brutal violence and torture, a scene of rape, and pervasive language

108 min.


U.S. Release Date: October 16, 2009

DVD Release Date: February 16, 2010

With the release of the DVD & Bluray of “Law Abiding Citizen” this week, I thought it appropriate to take a look at this one and fill you in on what you should expect.  Let me start by saying that my expectations going into this viewing were very low.  Aspects of the film went about as low as my expectations, but there were parts that I was thoroughly entertained by.  Had I paid ten dollars to see this in the theater it might be a different story, but as a rental, “Law Abiding Citizen” will give you $4.50 worth of entertainment.

Gerard Butler plays Clyde Shelton, a man whose wife and daughter are brutally murdered in the opening scene of the film.  Jamie Foxx plays Nick Rice, a hotshot lawyer in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office who takes the case to prosecute the murderers of Shelton’s family.  In hopes to preserve his high conviction rate, Rice strikes a deal with one of the murderers for a light sentence in order to send the other to death row.  This solution is unjust in Shelton’s eyes, but the deal is already done and the more violent of the two murderers will be a free man in a few short years.

Fast-forward ten years.  Nick Rice is the Assistant District Attorney, and the other killer, recently released from prison, winds up brutally murdered.  Shelton almost immediately admits involvement in the slaying of his family’s killer, and his held in prison.  When Rice meets with Shelton in the prison, the inmate offers his confession in exchange for luxury goods in his prison cell.  Beyond a memory foam mattress and nice meals, Shelton makes it clear and he now wants Rice to right the inherent wrongs of the justice system that he works in.  If Rice fails to meet Shelton’s every demand, all those involved in the trial of the Shelton family murders will die.  What unfolds is a man vs. the system battle where the lone man knows the steps that the system will take before they even make them.

I did enjoy the “Se7en”-esque trail of gore that Shelton leaves behind as this film progresses.  There were elements of the movie, however, that were so ham-fisted and cheesy that I couldn’t possibly ignore them.  Viola Davis, no matter how amazing she was in “Doubt”, gave an unforgivable performance as the Mayor of Philadelphia in this film.  It was as if she watched performances by all the “tough police captains” in all the typical action films and cooked them all to a hot stew of stank.  I normally wouldn’t harp on a minor character like this, because the Mayor was not a big part of the plot at all, but it was that bad, people.

Another thing that pulled me away from the film was more of a “reality vs. movie reality” issue.  Nick Rice, an attorney, was the character that was in hot pursuit of Shelton while on his kill spree, not the police.  Since when is it an attorney’s job to be the one to catch the bad guy?  In reality, Rice would be hanging out at all-inclusive resorts until it was time to prosecute Shelton, and then he would collect his paycheck.

So after all of this, I’m realizing that it probably sounds like I kind of hate the film.  On the contrary, after the several qualms I have with “Law Abiding Citizen”, it was an enjoyable mindless piece of cinema.  I can’t speak for the “unrated version”, which will likely include much more gore than the theatrical release, but theatrical version had just the right amount of drama, gore, intrigue, and cheese to keep my attention for a couple of hours.  If I were your host for “At The Movies”, I would definitely tell you to “Rent It”.

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