Sunday, November 1, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW: Law Abiding Citizen

I have to admit, the movie "Law Abiding Citizen" didn't even raise a blip on my radar. I had no clue as to the film's existence. But when a friend of mine suggested it with comparisons to the movie "Se7en", I decided to check it out.
So here's the story: Our citizen, Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) witnesses the murder of his wife & daughter. Expecting the criminals to be put behind bars for life, Clyde's dreams of justice die when the new hot-shot D.A. Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) makes a deal with one perp to send the other to death row. Ten years later, the two criminals are murdered and Clyde is the only suspect. This begins a battle of wills between Nick & Clyde, as Clyde reaches out from prison to cause chaos and mayhem for all working his case. Fearing for his life, and that of his own wife & daughter, Nick races against the clock to figure out Clyde's master plan.

Sound's good, right? I thought so, too. When I checked out the trailer, I was even more enthused by the promise of a psychological battle between two masters, each with serious worldviews, with many lives on the line.

And for the first part of the movie, it looked like that's what "Citzen" was going to deliver. The set up for the miscarriage of justice, the look of pain as Daddy dearest walks away, the delicious twist as the murderers die and there's only one person who could have killed them. Then a strange thing happens, the intensity that was slowly building to awe-inspiring levels... dissipates. As the two main stars dance around each other in an interrogation room that must have been a reject from the Saw movies, the focus of the movie switches from the mental chess game between an arrogant D.A. and a vengeful victim-turned-criminal to a mindless rollercoaster ride of bullets & explosions.

Don't get me wrong, the action here was exceptionally well done and there were some masterful death scenes, but the violence was supposed to be a side show to the battle between the cruelties of the modern justice system and people it's supposed to protect as represented by D.A. Nick & Citizen Clyde. That was the beauty of "Se7en", while most remember it as an excessively violent film, there wasn't much gore in it. The violence comes from the battle of wills, the philosophies presented, and the harsh conclusions the movie forces the viewer to make. And while Gerard Butler kills the American accent, he and Jamie Foxx have the acting chops to pull off that battle of wills. The scenes between them in the interrogation room were engrossing, but lacking in the moral weight needed to truly bring emotions to a boil.

"Law Abiding Citizen" should have been another entry in the level of film-making in which "Se7en" resides. Instead, the director turns what could have been a masterful thriller into a slightly above average action flick.

So, if you're looking for kills & explosions with a better than average backstory... this is a good choice. Personally, I hope the inevitable release of the "Director's Un-Rated Cut" is a better movie.

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