Law Abiding Citizen – 2.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

lawLaw Abiding Citizen – 2.5/5 – Movies with morals; they are a dime of dozens.  With the ‘movies with moral’ motto, they come in many different styles and genres.  You have morality films that use comedy, some that have action, and some that are either happy or sad dramas.  At the core of these movies is that, you will feel something, finding some real purpose.  Law Abiding Citizen is one of those films.  It has one deriving morality issue, and that is dealing with the justice system.  Overall, with some slight miscues, predictable plot developments and some time lapses, this movie is a subpar mix of drama and action, dealing with the overall notion; would you do the right thing, even when the right thing is not lawfully right?

Premise: Clyde Shelton’s (Gerald Butler) family is brutally murdered. The ones responsible are caught.  Even though the criminals were caught, because of improper procedure, the D.A., Nick Rice (Jaime Foxx) only has circumstantial evidence.  With the tampering of evidence, a plea bargain is made. Ten years later, the one who was convicted is being executed.  In the execution, something goes wrong, as well as the other convicted felon is found dead, killed in a gruesome manner.  Rice suspects Shelton, so he has him picked up.  At first, Shelton agrees to a plea agreement with Rice but changes his mind.  From this encounter, things are set into motion, which leads to more destruction, agony and pain.  What we come to find is that, even the most innocent must go beyond the law to prove what is morally right.

In the main two roles, we have two big name actors.  Playing the family man with a vendetta, Clyde Shelton, is Gerald Butler, and playing the lawyer caught in the web of this vendetta, Nick Rice, played by Jaime Foxx.  In these roles, both actors do a tremendous job in providing a ‘pro’ and ‘con’ mentality throughout the film.  Through his arrogance and ‘by the books’ ideals, Foxx’s character provides someone who believes in conviction, even if you need to bend the rules to get it.  Through his wits, ingenuity and humane moral base, Butler’s character is given as a steadfast position for righteousness, even if it goes beyond the law.  When both these worlds collide, you see they are strong in their positions.  What you are given (by both) is a layer of intrigue when it comes to their emotional involvement as well as depiction of moral code in their character development.  You know they usually make their decisions out of pride, but also realize the hardship of those consequences.  Through their decisions, this feel like a chess game you’re watching between them.  I give it this description because the rest of the people are basically pawns on this chess board.  The other characters are essentially general aspects of the plot, more then individual people.  They are one dimension, stale, and do nothing to provide depth to the film.  This is both a strength and weakness to the film.  It’s a strength because the focus stays on the main two characters.  It is also a weakness because it hinders any development of the general movie experience, involvement, or complete enjoyment if they had more entangling into the morality issue.

When it comes to the direction and general plot, it isn’t of anything new.  You have your basic ‘court drama’ mixed in with a ‘revenge’ plot.  There are some gruesome scenes that happen (with the death of the family and additional carnage from the vengeful Clyde Shelton) but it only invokes one or both themes.  After the beginning court case, Shelton wants those who committed the crime to pay for it, as well as ‘selected few’.  At the core of this revenge, is a challenge to the justice system, and how laws and people in power ‘bend’ things to define what is right and wrong.  This confliction helps develop a thriller aspect to this linear plot, and brings the question of ‘ what is right’ to the forefront.  Within this moral question, we are only given a subtle look at it, as the ‘dramatic’ tone shifts to a more ‘action oriented’ one.  Through this tone, everything regarding the ‘revenge’ plot is brought through shocking set pieces or dire situations.  This use of ‘drama’ and ‘action’ makes the direction very sloppy, causing it hard to stay focus on one theme over the other.  The blending of the morality with the actions is just seen as very loose strand of going between the drama and action.  Another element that becomes prevalent is that with a linear focus to go from start to finish, there are a lot of convienent plot devices to help define situations, motives, and scenarios.  Where the film ultimately fails is where it should have triumphed.  This is in the climax.  No spoilers will be given, but in a general scope, you get a ‘rushed’ ending because the direction has a mess with a time lapse issue, and the revenge becomes nothing more than a killjoy bravado.  With this, the ultimate viewing experience becomes a ‘lack thereof’ and you feel like it could have been better.

The cinematography is what it is.  We have a general layout of a modern city (Philadelphia is the centerpiece here) as well as a typical look at normal people, places and things.  The score has no relevance, so there won’t be any mention to it.

Overall, Law Abiding Citizen had a great start, with great actors, but falls flat in the end.  With conveniently placed plot devices, combined with ‘so-so’ action and a failing climax, this becomes a film that could have been so much better.  I would recommend this for fans of either actor (Foxx or Butler), but I would skip on this as a rental.

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