Law Abiding Citizen is one of the best movies to come out this year.
Law Abiding Citizen is one of those rare movies that come out every few years that is both intelligent and massively entertaining. The action starts immediately and doesn’t let up for the entire film. The plot momentum moves at a speed that keeps the audience’s attention due to the incredibly intricate and brilliant script by screenwriter Kurt Wimmer. The movie is also helped by terrific performances by its two stars, Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler.
The movie has barely begun when we see family man Clyde Shelton (Butler) and his family brutally attacked in their home. Skip forward to the trial where assistant district attorney Nick Rice (Foxx) has just made a plea deal with one of the two men who committed the crime in order to make sure at least one is guaranteed to go to jail. Rice’s refrain is, "Sometimes some justice is better than no justice." Clyde must then watch as the man he watched rape and kill his wife is set free.
The movie quickly jumps to ten years later and the execution of the man who stayed in prison. When the execution goes terribly wrong, Rice and the police discover that the lethal injection was intentionally tampered with. Soon it becomes obvious to Rice what happened. Clyde has spent the last ten years planning how he would seek revenge on those who wronged him and his family. He begins by taking care of the two men who committed the crime, but they aren’t the only guilty parties, and Clyde set in motion a massive attack on the entire legal system.
Director F. Gary Gray has again done justice to a complex story. He demonstrated his abilities as a director in The Italian Job, but with Law Abiding Citizen, he shows off a new level of skill. The difficulty in this film is keeping all the balls in the air while still making it understandable to the audience. Gray balances the quick scenes wonderfully and does a terrific job identifying the myriad characters that come in and out of the story.
Butler and Foxx are equally wonderful in their roles. It seems there is nothing Foxx can’t do. Earlier this year we saw his dramatic side in the much-delayed The Soloist, which was a touching portrait of a man struggling with mental illness. Here, we see Foxx the leading man who can control every scene with his powerful presence. As Rice, he is power hungry and ruthless and has a deep stare that can shake a person to their core.
Foxx’s game is elevated by the performance Butler turns in as a quiet man turned sociopath bent on killing everybody, as he says. Butler betrays no remorse for his actions, and it’s hard to tell if he has lost his mind or has simply been driven to this homicidal state. The film tends to indicate that he is not insane because no crazy person could execute such an elaborate plan. However, how could a sane person do what we see Clyde do in the film? Butler is perfect in his role because he leaves it up to the audience to decide which it is.
Law Abiding Citizen is one of the best movies to come out this year and will definitely appeal to anyone wanting a solid action movie or an intelligent thriller. | Matthew F. Newlin