Monday, February 22, 2010

Law Abiding Citizen (2009) - Best Served Cold

On the Menu: LAW ABIDING CITIZEN (2009)
Ingredients: Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx, Colm Meaney, Bruce McGill, Leslie Bibb, Regina Hall, Gregory Itzin and Viola Davis. Directed by F. Gary Gray. Run time: 108 minutes. Rated: R.

At First Bite: A crime thriller with Butler and Foxx where lots of things go explody looked pretty good in the trailer. I didn't go see it in the theater though. It didn't look that good.

Clyde Shelton (Butler) loses his wife and daughter during a home invasion. His lawyer, Nick Rice (Foxx), makes a plea deal with one of the murderers because he didn't want to go to trial and chance his 96% conviction rate. Ten years later, Shelton exacts "justice" on those who he feels wronged him, and does so mostly from the comfort of a jail cell.

Tough to Swallow: Law-abiding is a hyphenated word! Ugh.

Oh, and Shelton is supposedly a genius inventor, but the guy doesn't have a peephole on his front door, and doesn't think to see who is banging on his door before opening it as though he were expecting company. Give me a break. The background info we get on him later make his shortcomings even more unbelievable. His super-genius cred really takes a hit in the last 19 minutes of the movie.

Also, the entire movie we're led to think it's horrible that the justice system is broken and corrupt, but, again, that idea is lost in the final 19 minutes.

Needless to say, the ending ruined what was an intense and somewhat intelligent movie. It's funny, too, how far you can get in 25 seconds when napalm is concerned.

I have a couple of questions, too. Do assistant district attorneys go on police chases? Do prisons have guards or cameras to watch over super-genius murderers while they're in a cell?

Something to Chew On: The prison in the movie is a real prison (Holmesburg Prison), and actually housed inmates during production. Director F. Gary Gray makes a cameo as a detective, and Philadephia Mayor Michael Nutter also appears. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION director Frank Darabont and Catherine Zeta-Jones were both reported to be attached to the film in its early stages.

The film currently has a 7.3 user rating on (26,659 votes).

Sides: The DVD includes audio commentary from producers Lucas Foster and Alan Siegel (I might have watched the movie again if it was a director's commentary or included Butler or Foxx). "The Justice of Law Abiding Citizen" lasts about 6 minutes and discusses the actual use of law in the movie. "Law in Black and White - Behind the Scenes" is a 15-minute making-of documentary. "Preliminary Arguments - Visual Effects Progressions" deals with 5 different effects scenes and breaks them down (about 7 minutes long total). "Behind Bars - A History of Holmesburg Prison" is an exclusive feature from Blockbuster and runs about 7-8 minutes. Also included in the theatrical trailer and a "trailer mash-up." The mash-up isn't anything funny or creative (if it was a contest winner, it must have been a small contest). So, all in all, some decent extras.

Aftertaste: It's like DEATH WISH with a vigilante who is more John Doe (SEVEN) or Hannibal Lecter than Charles Bronson's Paul Kersey. Personally, I was rooting for Shelton the entire film. I'm not sure what that says about my sense of morality, but, even as a vengeful, sadistic killer, he's more likable than Rice. There seems to be a point when you're supposed to switch allegiances, but I couldn't do it. Shelton lost his family, and the court system screwed him royally. Rice neglects his family and chooses to make deals with murderers instead of trying cases because he doesn't want a blemish on his record. Which one would you side with?

There is one great scene where you're expecting something to happen... and it does, but it made me shout, "Holy s***!" Does it make up for the preposterousness of Shelton's game plan? You be the judge.

The movie had promise as a psychological thriller, but leans more on the explosions and kill scenes to keep you interested. But, like TAKEN, this revenge film takes the easy way out (maybe the way-too-easy way out) and tries to tie everything up with a nice little bow. The movie's finale is just plain dumb and ridiculously convenient. The way this movie treats its super-genius protagonist/antagonist is really frustrating. If you do watch this movie, turn it off when Rice reads an email while on the phone with his cop buddy. Then, imagine what you'd like to happen. Because if there's a real injustice here, it's the final 19 minutes.


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