movie film review | chris tookey

Law Abiding Citizen

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  Law Abiding Citizen Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
3.44 /10
Nick Jamie Foxx, Clyde Gerard Butler
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Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Written by: Kurt Wimmer

Released: 2009
Genre: SO BAD
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 108

So idiotic, itís entertaining.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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F. Gary Grayís Law Abiding Citizen is arguably the most preposterous picture of the year. It is a Death Wish-style revenge rampage, in which a nice guy (Gerard Butler, pictured right) witnesses his wife and child being raped and killed, and feels so upset when one killer receives a light sentence for ratting on the other, that he sets about wreaking mayhem, not only on the murderers but the entire US justice system. And believe me, itís pretty grisly. Mr Butler dismembers the principal bad guy without anaesthetic within thirty minutes, and that is only the start.

The film is competently shot and visceral enough to find a similar audience to the one that applauded the Liam Neeson revenge thriller, Taken. The twist is that the revenge takes on grandiose and even biblical proportions, as Mr Butler turns out to be super-talented, and experienced, at killing. At one point he paralyzes a victim with a chemical "isolated from the liver of a Caribbean puffer fish." Thatís not something you see every day.

As the film progresses, or rather regresses into super-dumbness, our hero carries on creating carnage even from his prison cell in solitary confinement. Our sympathy is clearly meant to switch at some point Ė though itís hard to know exactly when Ė from the didactically sadistic revenge-assassin to the mild-mannered lawyer (Jamie Foxx, pictured left) whose plea-bargain sparked off the killing spree.

One problem is that Butler never looks much more menacing than a well-meaning oaf whoíd be knocked out within seconds in the average pub brawl. Another snag is that his master-plan is full of holes. Apart from anything else, itís dependent on him being sent to one particular prison. And he ends up trying to murder lots of people who had nothing to do with the original injustice, which just makes him look silly, as well as bonkers.

Foxx struggles almost as risibly with a role that sets him up as the bad guy, over-ambitious and far too willing to cut corners, but then expects us to support him, just because he has a wife and small daughter in peril. No one involved seems to notice that his dodgy ethics remain unchanged throughout. Commercially, the most important failing of the movie is that it gives us no one to root for.

uThe biggest hoot is that occasionally it tries to pretend to be a serious critique of the US judicial system. Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer perpetrated two of the dumbest sci-fi movies of the past six years, Equilibrium and Ultraviolet, and he doesnít reveal an intellectual side here. He and his director take a hilariously crass view of civil rights, one moment decrying them as a way for the guilty to escape justice, the next suggesting that anyone who challenges civil rights deserves to receive an instantaneous death sentence via an exploding mobile phone. Seriously, you canít have it both ways, guys.

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