Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Law Abiding Citizen [2009]

Scanning the reviews on Metacritic – this film is bashed for being torture/porn and compared to Saw. I just don’t see it. It’s an over the top revenge film that does have some contraption kills – but it’s certainly not Saw.

The wife and child of Clyde Shelton (played by Gerard Butler) are killed during the course of a robbery. An ambitious assistant DA, Nick Rice (played by Jamie Foxx), decides to make sure that at least one of the perpetrators get what they deserve even if it means the other gets a light sentence. The only problem is the deal that he makes lets the wrong guy off – and Clyde is mad – 10 years later Clyde enacts a plan – and as we find out “If Clyde wants you dead. You’re dead.” Even if Clyde is behind bars!!!

This is a cat and mouse chase kind of who is smarter than whom - revenge tale. Clyde plays with Nick and his group of cops & prosecutors – as he teaches them a lesson. I don’t think anyone out there would disagree that this “lesson” is worth learning – as the law is set-up to protect its citizens – not to let killers go free. It’s the execution of the lesson plan (pun-pun-pa-pun-pun) that raises the question.

Can the “hero” of the film be the one killing innocent people? Or is the hero of the film the one who let an innocent family’s killer go free?

My problem with the film is that I think the message gets a little muddled – and they tend to over-sympathize with Clyde – therefore making it harder to root for Nick. Maybe it’s the script – maybe it’s the actors – but it’s hard to feel sorry for what seems like an unsympathetic and cocky prosecutor – who has his entire life in front of him – and doesn’t regret making the deal to let the killer go free. Versus’ a scorned father – who’s charisma almost makes you forgive the fact that he’s causing horrible things to happen to people.

Your like or dislike of this film is ultimately going to be based on who you like more – rather than based on who is “right”. Both characters are ultimately “right” and “wrong” in their decisions – the DA does his job the way the law allows him to do his job even if it means making deals with murderers – Clyde is taking out the trash but also crosses the line on whom he considers “trash”. Considering one character is more sympathetic than the other – if you whole-heartedly disagree with Clyde – then you will probably dislike the film.

The direction was standard – as was the entire production – nothing that makes it stand out. I finished it maybe a half-hour ago – and there wasn’t truly any memorable scenes that make me want to watch it again. The acting was all right – though I thought Foxx should’ve come off as more sympathetic than he did.

I liked the film more than I disliked it – there was enough intrigue that kept me interested – and even though there were some big plot holes (the most glaring of which addressed head-on as soon as I thought it up) – I didn’t mind rooting for Clyde and his quest taking down the “corrupt” system. On first viewing – I’ll give it a 4 out of 5 – but I can see it settling more around a 3 if I watched it again in the near future.

[directed by F. Gary Gray]

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