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Law Abiding Citizen

A movie directed by F. Gary Gray, Starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler.

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"It's Not What You Know...It's What You Can Prove."

  • Feb 19, 2010

We’ve all seen movies about the simple family man who has lost everything to misfortune made worst by a system that ultimately also fails him. “LAW-ABIDING CITIZEN” is one such exercise that goes into the theme of a wronged man who exacts vengeance and seeks justice for his family’s killers.
Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is a family man who had just witnessed his wife and his only daughter get brutally abused and murdered. When hotshot prosecutor Nick Rice (Jaime Foxx) settled to have one of the attackers become a key witness in the trial in exchange for leniency, Shelton ’s world is shattered. Rice is more interested in keeping a perfect conviction record than dishing out real justice. Now, 10 years later, Rice is now a more influential legal figure, Shelton unleashes a master plan that will make the killers and those who had short-changed justice for his family pay for their mistakes.

              Gerard Butler in "Law Abiding Citizen."

                               Bruce McGill as Jonas Cantrell, Leslie Bibb as Sarah Lowell and Jamie Foxx as Nick Rice in "Law Abiding Citizen."
“Law-Abiding Citizen” has the right formula for simplistic brilliance and the potential to be highly exploitive. The film does get quite violent and brutal during the opening act and midway to its halfway point. The home invasion sequence was displayed with hinted at brutality, (I actually thought this worked as a suggestive element) and the torture scene in the abandoned warehouse displayed all the gory results. I guess the movie did succeed somewhat in incorporating some ‘shock’ value as part of its main draw.
For its main plot, it also follows a very simple set up and formula. A wronged family man driven to his breaking point who hungers more for justice than revenge against the well-grooved ambitious attorney who’d rather have a perfect conviction record rather than having to risk losing a case is fleshed out. I actually had no issues rooting for Clyde Shelton, the family man who wanted to get justice for his family’s murder. Director F. Gary Gray and writer Kurt Wimmer is able to generate suspense as we see the two play a sort of a cat and mouse game as they both try to outwit the other. Their face-to-face exchanges actually succeed to generate the needed tension in its narrative. The film does touch on the harsh and cruel realities of our justice system and brings the loopholes into exposition. It is quite disappointing really; that a system meant to be fair is being used by lawyers and suspects to suit their own ends. Ambitious lawyers and “detached” judges? “Plea bargaining”? The screenplay does manage to encourage a reaction from its viewers in the first half.

                Colm Meaney as Det. Dunnigan, Gerard Butler as Clyde Shelton and Jamie Foxx as Nick Rice in "Law Abiding Citizen."

                                  A scene from the film "Law Abiding Citizen."
I had no issues sympathizing at all with Gerard Butler’s character as we become privy to his misfortune as his family becomes a casualty in a flawed and easily manipulated justice system. Jamie Foxx’s character Nick Rice is one individual who is faced with tough decisions that can be marred by his own pride and sense of morality. He knows the law, but one can ask questions about his skills as a prosecutor and as a man. The two main characters are representations of the “little guy” and the “big guy”. I liked the performances for the most part and I enjoyed Butler ’s expressions of despair, raw anger and frustration which I thought was very believable. 

            Leslie Bibb as Sarah Lowell in "Law Abiding Citizen."

                                   Gerard Butler as Clyde Shelton in "Law Abiding Citizen."
Now for a film about man bent on justice and revenge to succeed, a film has to really touch on certain themes that hit home on today’s modern society and justice system. I can suspend my disbelief that someone can methodically make plans in 10 years to try to tear down the system that tore down his way of life. I always root for the underdog who is fighting for his belief and once the script starts to give a ‘twist’ to reveal more of Clyde’s background, then the film falls on becoming quite ‘cartoonish’ and stereotypical. I know it is an acceptable attempt to try and explain Clyde’s skills in manipulating the events but I had issues of it matching the tone which was successfully established in the first half. “Jim Phelps vs. Perry Mason” just feels a little too ‘cooked up’ for me and the film begins to falter in its tone of set realism. Also, there is a huge plot misstep that ruins the film’s final act. If you break it down carefully, it feels rather forced and far-fetched that Nick can get to that area that quickly.
“Law-Abiding Citizen” has a good first half but sadly it loses it footing after the halfway point. There is brilliance in simplicity and sadly director Gray and writer Wimmer wasn’t confident enough to follow through with the tone, mood and simplicity the film had set in the first half. The final act is all too perfunctory that ‘crime doesn’t pay’ but it just wasn’t enough to bring its main premise into full circle. Thankfully, Butler did a good job as the main protagonist and I had no issues sympathizing with his character that he almost made me overlook its contrived climax. This climax offers no surprise and is just a display that proved rather unsatisfying that ruins the success the film has achieved in the first half. It loses its thought-provoking devices by inserting a clichéd resolution filled with canned emotions. It was just not serene and self-assured enough to play the simple good guy and bad guy to brilliant simplicity.
Recommended with Caution, Rent it First [3 Stars]
Hype Level: Moderate.
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April 06, 2010
Great review - I couldn't believe they copped out in the ending. They should gone down the Fight Club path rather than the predictable crapfest at the end.
April 06, 2010
I know what you mean, if they kept the tone and the mood going then this would've been more effective as a taut and real tight thriller. A Fightclub path would've been really amazing!
March 12, 2010
Awesome review, I haven't seen this film yet but I have been meaning to for awhile it looks like it could be pretty good.
April 06, 2010
seen this yet? would like to read your take on it.
April 07, 2010
No not yet I will sometime this week or next week.
March 06, 2010
Sounded a little like one of Harrison Ford's movie from a long time ago. Not very interesting as plot repeats. Hollywood seems to be running out of good material while the Koreans are coming up with some very decent ones, don't you think?
April 06, 2010
ok I am a little late in responding but yes, Korean cinema is taking the lead in crime dramas. Seen THE CHASER?
February 21, 2010
This must have gone pretty qyuickly on ammie. I responded almost immediately and it was gone. Oh well, not my type of movie really, but they offer movies so infrequently that I thought I'd try for it anyhow.
February 21, 2010
I know what you mean, Queenie. I clicked on it in ammie's vine program and they were all gone. Luckily a friend of mine (who owns a small dvd store) gave me the Asian release. Can you play region-3 dvds? I'll send it to you...
February 21, 2010
Wish I could.
More Law Abiding Citizen reviews
review by . September 21, 2010
Don't make this man angry
I recently had the pleasure of watching this film.      The story is dramatic and well told.      Gerard Butler portrays Clyde Shelton who is playing with his little daughter at the start of the movie. Someone comes to the door and Shelton opens the door, unaware of the danger that awaits.      Shelton opens the door, smiling in anticipation of a friendly visit, only to be smashed on the head with what appears to be a bat and then he is …
review by . November 01, 2009
Taking INJUSTICE into his own hands.
It's always a terrific pleasure to go into a movie with low or even no expectations and come out of it feeling pleasantly surprised. Such was my experience with Law Abiding Citizen. The trailer seemed good enough to lure me into the theater seats, but despite an intriguing plot and compelling marketing, I pretty much gambled on this one being a typical legal-esque thriller.      Turns out I was wrong.      This isn't a mrere good-guy-lawyer-trying-to-catch-the-bad-guy-cr …
review by . June 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
3 stars : Many escape justice none escape vengance....
Picture it you have a beautiful wife a loving and sweet daughter a great job that you love and every night you come home to your family knowing there will be a great dinner waiting for you so you can sit around the table and just share some quality time with the ones you love. It is essentially the American dream; the dream that all want and most get but what if one day that dream was taken away from you? What if some crooks from off the street broke into your home rob you and murdered the …
Quick Tip by . June 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Has a well thought out story but the premise is overused and the dialogue and acting fall flat when they are needed to hold up this bloody revenge thriller. But all in all "Law Abiding Citizen" works despite the fact.
review by . February 26, 2010
I wasn't sure what I was going to get going into this movie. I can recall this film, "Law Abiding Citizen" being in the theaters for like five seconds. This could either be a good thing or bad thing nowadays. Nevertheless after watching this movie, I feel that this movie had potential but seemed to miss the mark.    The premise is somewhat simple. Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is attacked and witnessed both his wife and daughter's murder. After the two men who committed this …
review by . February 22, 2010
All the internet chattering aside, LAW ABIDING CITIZEN is just what it sets out to be - a thriller that keeps the viewer involved in the mind games of a passionate man right up to the end (uh, well almost - except for the needlessly sugary revolting Hallmarky last few frames meant to clean up the mess the movie suggests...)    Kurt Wimmer wrote this 'taking justice into our own hands' story with a good deal of imagination and gadgetry and F. Gary Gary keeps the momentum of the …
review by . February 14, 2010
Butler does what all of us would want to do if someone were to come and kill our closest loved ones, he gets revenge and gets away with it! His character is smart, rich, connected and worst of all, patient. I loved watching him work the system to his benefit and getting back at those who ruined his life, we were definitly rooting for him! This film is brilliant as it shows very elaborate thought out plans that he excutes brilliantly to finish off his enemies. A must see!
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William ()
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About this movie


In LAW ABIDING CITIZEN, a prisoner's incredible reign over the city outside his cell is interrupted by an assistant district attorney. Gerard Butler (300) stars.

Law Abiding Citizen is a 2009 thriller film directed by F. Gary Gray from a screenplay written by Kurt Wimmer, and starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler. The film takes place in Philadelphia and tells the story of a man who decides to exact justice on his family's killers, as well as the criminal justice system.

Jamie Foxx as Nick Rice
Gerard Butler as Clyde Shelton
Viola Davis as the Mayor of Philadelphia
Bruce McGill as Jonas Cantrell
Leslie Bibb as Sarah Lowell
Colm Meaney as Detective Dunnigan
Regina Hall as Kelly Rice
Michael Kelly as CIA Operative Bray
Michael Irby as Detective Garza
Roger Bart as Brian Bringham
Christian Stolte as Clarence J. Darby
Josh Stewart as Rupert Ames
Jamie Foxx as Nick Rice
Gerard Butler as Clyde Shelton
Viola Davis as the Mayor of Philadelphia
Bruce McGill as Jonas Cantrell
Leslie Bibb as Sarah Lowell
Colm Meaney as Detective Dunnigan
Regina Hall as Kelly Rice
Michael Kelly as CIA Operative Bray
Michael Irby as Detective Garza
Roger Bart as Brian Bringham
Christian Stolte as Clarence J. Darby
Josh Stewart as Rupert Ames
Jamie Foxx as Nick Rice
Gerard Butler as Clyde Shelton
Viola Davis as the Mayor of Philadelphia
Bruce McGill as Jonas Cantrell
Leslie Bibb as Sarah Lowell
Colm Meaney as Detective ...
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Director: F. Gary Gray
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: 2009
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: February 16, 2010
Runtime: 1hr 49min
Studio: Overture Films, Anchor Bay Entertainment
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