Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

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Published on: 2009.10.23

I waited a few days to write this review, mainly because when I like a movie this much, I don’t want to appear to gush all over it like a little fanboy.

Simply put, Law Abiding Citizen is about a man (played by Gerard Butler) who’s disappointed in the prosecution of the men who killed his wife and daughter. He goes after the prosecutor’s office, and indeed the entire city of Philadelphia. He uses intricate planning and smart device-building to accomplish his purpose.

Let’s start with the things I didn’t like, which were very few.

For one, the ending was just a little weak, and slightly contrived. Without giving away the ending completely, let me say this: The prosecutor (Jamie Foxx) takes a risk that his character development didn’t adequately explain, and one that didn’t make a lot of sense, given what he knew at the time. Also, most of the story led us to believe that Butler’s character was so smart, yet the way the cops track him down shows that he couldn’t have thought things through very well.

Also, Butler’s character left his final device in plain sight, which doesn’t sit with his character development. I fully expected that device to be a decoy, while the real one was too well-hidden. But the writers knew which side they wanted to win in the end, so they had to ignore for one scene the brilliance of their antagonist.

But that’s about it.

The film is full of dramatic reveals. Even when you’ve guessed what’s going to happen next and you’re right, the way it’s shown is still surprising and eye-opening.

Butler, who’s quickly become one of my favorite actors (despite his slight resemblance to Ben Roethlisberger), carries this role with complete believability. His character is darker and less honorable than the hero of “300” and a lot more filled out than some of his other roles.

But “less honorable” is a matter of opinion. We’ve all seen the increasing tendencies of prosecutors to offer a plea bargain to a defendant. Sometimes, it’s because they need a conviction, and other times it’s because one defendant will testify against another. On the one hand, most of us agree that the burden of proof should be stiff, because we don’t want innocent people in jail. On the other hand, it often looks as though the guilty guy gets off scott free because of a technicality.

For Butler’s character, he knows who’s guilty, because he was there when the original crimes were committed. So he goes after the guilty, punishing them in his own way. But he takes it a step farther, wanting to teach the justice system a lesson.

Foxx plays the assistant DA in a way that makes you feel for his side too. You know he’s made mistakes and compromises, but you can see why he’s done it, and you know that Right is ultimately on his side, despite your sympathy for Butler’s character.

The supporting cast couldn’t have been better.

The action scenes are so well done that I found myself cringing in my seat, blinking in surprise, and occasionally forgetting to breathe. That’s saying a lot for a jaded movie-goer.

My favorite scene was during a meeting between the DA, assistant DA, and the judge in the case, about halfway through the movie. She says something like, “The great part about being a judge is that I do just about anything I want.” Then she picks up her cell phone. You know something bad’s about to happen, but you’re not sure what. When it does, man is it cool.

I went in with high expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed.

IMDb: Law Abiding Citizen
Wikipedia: Law Abiding Citizen
Rating: R
(for strong bloody brutal violence and torture, a scene of rape, and pervasive language)
Length: 109 min. (1:49)
Director: F. Gary Gray
Genre: Drama / Thriller
My Rating: 9 of 10
Family Friendly: No
Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler, Colm Meaney, Bruce McGill, Leslie Bibb, Regina Hall, Christian Stolte, Annie Corley

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