Going into this film, you have to understand that this is a mid-action drama starring Gerard Butler, who, after straining himself to hide his Scottish accent, has little effort left to expend doing any real acting. Expecting an Oscar-worthy performance is just setting yourself up for disappointment. But if you walk into it knowing that you're just going to see an only slightly believable story and some flashy flames and torture porn, you'll walk out of this film satisfied. Going into this film, you have to understand that this is a mid-action drama starring Gerard Butler, who after straining himself to hide his Scottish accent has little effort left to expend doing any real acting. Expecting an Oscar-worthy performance is just setting yourself up for disappointment. But if you walk into it knowing that you're just going to see an only slightly believable story and some flashy flames and torture porn, you'll walk out of this film satisfied.
If you can't handle a little...well, maybe a lot of brutality, then you should probably just fast forward through the first five or ten minutes and spare yourself a bit of rape, slow and totally brutal stabbing, and a little girl getting whisked off for a little of both. You get enough of that backstory just from Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) meeting with an ambitious-to-a-fault lawyer Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx). Rice, a defense attorney looking at his goals to become DA, makes a deal that would ensure his victory in the case, but in doing so allows one of the men involved in the murder of Clyde's wife go free. Clyde doesn't like that.
Feeling that the entire justice system is broken, Clyde turns himself into the film's anti-hero by violently, yet creatively murdering everyone involved in the case that let his wife's killer back onto the street. The twist is he does most of his killing from inside the prison, causing great grief and fear in Nick, who is doing everything he can to stop Clyde before he gets to Nick's family.
If you learn one thing from Law Abiding Citizen it should be this: do NOT mess with a dude whose family was murdered, or that guy will lay waste to you in ways you can't even imagine. Clyde Shelton is a shockingly brutal dude, and depending on whose side you're on when you're watching this (Butler's or Foxx') you'll feel sweet vindication at every kill, or unbridled rage at his irresponsible murdering of mostly innocent people. If you immerse yourself in this film and ignore its shortcomings, Law Abiding Citizen will do a number on your moral compass.
Movies like this need some “grit” on it, meaning that it can't be all colors and clarity otherwise the entire tone of the film will just not feel right. Director F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, Friday) delivers what I'll call a “rain storm” of a film, dropping the saturation and boosting the doom and gloom almost to the point where you'd think you were watching a post-apocalyptic film. Law Abiding Citizen is undeniably a nice film to look at, making it worth price of admission just for that.
This movie is not spectacular, has some ridiculous plot holes, and aside from the badassery of Gerard Butler is generally mediocre. But if you don't think about the story too hard and just sit back and watch a meat head blaze a path of bodies to victory, then you might just be able to have a good time with Law Abiding Citizen. The behind the scenes footage that appears on the one-disk set would be awesome were it not inexplicably in black and white. Not that B&W photography can't be effective, but in a behind the scenes featurette involving a bunch of explosions, it's detrimental to the piece, which remains interesting nonetheless.
Possibly the most interesting feature on the DVD is the short look at the history of the facility where Gerard Butler's character was incarcerated, Broadmeadows Prison in Pennsylvania. It's not full of ghost stories or riot anecdotes, it's just in and of itself a creepy, beat down institution with a bit of a back story to it. A few former guards and even a former inmate speak about how harsh the conditions were inside the prison even on the best days.
Commentaries done solely by producers are usually a bit lackluster and the same holds true here. While it's informative, it's not all that entertaining so unless your goal in life is to produce feature films, pass on this feature.
Law Abiding Citizen fringes on the line between rent and buy. Fans of Gerard Butler will get what they want out of this, but depth of story is not the film's strong suit. Unless you have frequent, insatiable cravings for Leonidas and are sick of watching 300, just put this at the bottom of your Netflix queue and just check it out whenever. No hurry.
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