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Law Abiding Citizen

October 9, 2009

Ever since I was a kid people have always told me that I should be a lawyer. Apparently if you like being an ass with a passion for debating then it’s the perfect profession. But I never wanted the job; too much reading, too much legal mumbo-jumbo, blood on your hands, oh yeah and the fact that whomever I possibly let free or prosecute may attempt to kill me in the end. Thus the premise of Law Abiding Citizen. Gerard Butler stars as Clyde Shelton, a handsome father and husband whose wife and child are brutally murdered as he’s forced to sit and watch. The murderers are tried with one getting a death sentence and the other a slap on the wrist. Ten years pass and Clyde proves that hell hath no fury like a man forced to watch his family die, as he decides to quench his thirst for guilty blood. After brutally committing double homicide, Clyde is purposefully jailed in order to prove that he’s still pissed at the legal system and thus start his systematic reign of terror on the people he feels deserve to be punished.

Director F. Gary Gray has a knack for crime-dramas from Set it Off to The Italian Job, therefore the biggest disappointment of Law Abiding Citizen is its influence of other genres instead of a strong sense of individuality. The film turns out to be a bit of a hodgepodge of other crime-dramas such as Saw, Seven, and Inside Man. There was not much separating it from your typical cat-and-mouse scenario except the occasional “oh I didn’t see that coming… well on second thought.” Also at times the explanations of Clyde’s schemes feels cheap, similar to pulling the mask off the scarecrow to discover that it was Old man Jenkins all along because he didn’t want people on his land. And Jamie Foxx’s performance left very much to be desired. The man can act, we know this, but maybe uppity District Attorney just ain’t his forte. Watching his character, Nick Rice, was like watching someone give their best Denzel impersonation, not a bad one but far from great.

Yet overall Law Abiding Citizen was impressive and highly enjoyable. It’s a simple story with a touch of complex motifs and although it’s comparable to other crime films it takes enough twist and turn to stand on its own two feet. It brings a grittiness and darkness to Philadelphia that is normally only seen in New York in other films and the film nicely blurs the line of protagonist and antagonist. Law Abiding Citizen entails nice suspenseful moments and great use of pacing as it doesn’t give the viewer too much dialogue at once nor pointless blood and guts. Scenes of Nick attempting to figure out how Clyde is still murdering from behind bars crosscuts with Clyde patiently waiting in his cell sitting alone in thought, igniting tension and giving the film a touch of class and kudos for editor Tariq Anwar.

What was most interesting about this film on a personal level was the lack of romance. Typically most, if not all, mainstream Hollywood films throw in a passionate love story or emphasis on a relationship to get women in the seats of an action/crime film. While Clyde becomes a psychotic murderer because of the death of his wife, that aspect isn’t stressed. Instead throughout the film Clyde constantly clutches his daughter’s gift to him, a bracelet inscribed “daddy.” Even Nick, a married man, has concern over the safety of his wife but the main focus is his daughter. I thoroughly enjoyed not having a sappy unnecessary romance shoved down my throat and was instead treated to the spectacle that is the body of Gerard Butler. The man’s body is exquisite and F. Gary Gray obviously knows this as seen early in the film when Clyde is preparing to get arrested. The camera sits at a medium shot as he takes off his pants and then slowly unbuttons his shirt with the next cut revealing him standing naked arms raised high for the cops to take him down. As they walk him to the patrol car, Clyde is clad in only a pair of slightly snug fitting jeans and bare six-packed abs… the only romance this woman needs in a film.


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