Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Movie Review:Law Abiding Citizen

Okay, let's get the plot out of the way early. Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) and his family are victims of a random crime that turns horrific when Clarence Darby (Christian Stolte) turns to rape and murder.
At the trial, conviction rate fanatic Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) makes a plea bargain with Darby over the objections of Shelton that puts Darby back on the street quickly while his less guilty accomplice Rupert Ames (Josh Stewart) gets the death penalty.
10 years later, instead of being executed painlessly, Ames has a violent, painful death which, even though he was being executed, makes it murder.
The trail leads to Darby who turns up dead. In a detective role, Assistant DA Rice tracks it back to Shelton who more or less admits to it, and later admits it with great pride.
Bodies start piling up with Shelton in prison as he tries to make his point that the system is broken. Ultimately the question becomes whether Rice can figure out how to stop him before Shelton kills everyone involved in the trial that set free Darby while killing Ames.
This movie is first and foremost a message movie. It is an indictment of a legal system that is more interested in conviction rates than in true justice. Plea deals, phrases such as "It's not what you know, it is what you can prove", the bail system and much more are the agit-prop targets of the film-makers.
However, to get their message across, they needed a platform, and that platform became a drama/action hybrid with some strange directions.
At first you feel sympathy for Shelton. Here is an involved father and dedicated family man who had his family ripped away in a senseless, brutal crime.

Yet as the movie progresses and his murderous rampage goes ever wider...taking in judges, office assistants, defense attorneys, and basically everyone EXCEPT the guy who made the deal, your sympathy starts to fade and instead he seems more like a guy who has lost his mind.
Nor is Rice an overly sympathetic character.
And the conclusion, while what it must be, is disappointing...simply because they went with what "must be" instead of finding a creative, satisfying conclusion that did not undermine the points they were trying to make throughout the whole movie.
The movie was mildly entertaining but nothing anybody should rush out to see which is disappointing because it has a phenomenal cast, the directing was nicely paced and set a good atmosphere, and they avoided the gore while still portraying the brutality that started the whole thing. Ultimately, it was just a weak script and that it was entertaining is a testament to the skills of Foxx, Butler, and director F. Gary Gray.
Wait for Netflix.