Butler is on a Foxx Hunt
"Law Abiding Citizen" strongly reminds me of "Fracture" starring Anthony Hopkins, it shares the theme of a man who commits a murder and then intentionally gets himself arrested so that he can toy with the lawyers who are trying to prosecute him. But where as "Fracture" was all about the murdered outsmarting the lawyers by making it impossible to prove he committed the crime, "Law Abiding Citizen" is about the criminal somehow managing to continue murdering people whilst stuck in prison. And so with that "Law Abiding Citizen" is very much an action move rather than a psychological thriller with scenes of violence which embraces the brutal, bloodiness of the "Saw" movies. It is shall we say entertaining in an over the top manner which gets more over the top the longer it goes on but it also strangely works.
10 years after his wife and daughter were murdered, Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler - P.S. I Love You) wants revenge but not just on the criminals but also the lawyers who cut a deal with one of them in turn for a shorter sentence. Willing to go to any length to get his revenge Clyde finds himself thrown into prison, suspected of the brutal murder of one of the criminals but the lawyers can't prove it and somehow whilst in prison Clyde is still managing to carry on terrorizing and killing those who were involved especially Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx - Dreamgirls) who was his lawyer 10 years ago and is now in charge of trying to prosecute him.
It doesn't take long for "Law Abiding Citizen" to establish that it is not going to shy away from violence, or at least perceived violence as within the opening scenes we have seen Clyde Shelton attacked and his wife murdered whilst suggesting she was also raped in front of his eyes. It certainly works to grab your attention and that is something which "Law Abiding Citizen" continually does as it increases the level of violence. Beyond this opening segment we then get the story 10 years on and Clyde going on a rampage against all those who were involved in the murder of his family and the lawyers who allowed one of the criminals to get off. Let's just say that the next few scenes which include an execution gone wrong and a "Saw" like revenge on a criminal called Darby, borders on the sickening.
Now the thing is that whilst the opening 20 - 30 minutes of "Law Abiding Citizen" has these scenes of brutality it also has a cleverness about it. There is a scene where following his willing arrest Clyde out wits lawyer Nick Rice when pushed for a confession; it's a smart scene which makes you smile. But whilst there are more clever scenes which reveal themselves the longer the movie goes on "Law Abiding Citizen" does end up being all about the violence as somehow Clyde manages to continue his campaign of revenge whilst locked up in solitary. And like the opening scenes of violence director F. Gary Gray does not shy away of making them in your face and brutal. It is the action which makes "Law Abiding Citizen" so exciting and you end up stop worrying about how Clyde is managing all of this from inside and instead wait for the next attack.
The sad thing is that because things get expectedly more over the top the longer it goes on the actual explanation as to how Clyde achieved all of this whilst incarcerated is more far fetched than the action. Whilst for some the lack of realism wont be a factor and find the pseudo intelligence believable for me it spoilt what could have been a truly clever movie. And sadly if that wasn't bad enough the big final battle, as you expect from this sort of movie, is so overly choreographed it goes beyond being cheesy.
Despite this over indulgence of going over the top the actual performances are good especially from Gerard Butler who makes for a fearsome criminal. Not only does Butler get across the inner rage of someone desperate to have his revenge but he also gets across the moments of intelligence and the confession scene works because of how Butler plays it, with not so much arrogance but a playful confidence. Jamie Foxx does an equally good job as the lawyer Nick Rice and whilst all the back story to this character being the workaholic father seems unnecessary Foxx is solid as the man who becomes determined to discover how Clyde is still killing whilst locked up.
What this all boils down to is that "Law Abiding Citizen" is an entertaining movie especially if you are into brutal violence. In fact it feels like a movie for those who watched "Fracture" but were let down by the lack of action. It is over the top and ends up on a rather cheesy note but if all you want is some "Saw" like action and plenty of big explosions then it will be right up your street.