I’ve been dying to say this for a while, but hello and welcome to Cinemania! Here, I’ll be taking a look at some of the best and worst that Hollywood has to offer. Now, I believe that in order to appreciate something good, we must first look at something bad. So let’s do that as we dive into Law Abiding Citizen.
Some may remember that I did a blog ranting about this movie not too long ago. However, after watching the movie again for this review, I realized that I made a few mistakes, and that might be due to the fact that I was kinda angry at the movie. As such, my rage kept me from writing an accurate review. But I’ve had a chance to start over and I’m taking it. This is Law Abiding Citizen.
Plot–Let me just say that I love the film’s general premise. A story about a vigilante fighting outside of the law because the justice system won’t do anything about crime? I don’t care that it’s been done before–sign me up! If only it were that simple, however. A lot of the film’s issues have to do with the characters and how they’re written. In fact, let’s talk about that.
Characters–There are only two characters that mean anything here: Clyde Shelton (played by Gerard Butler) and Nice Rice (played by Jamie Foxx). Clyde’s backstory is that his wife and family were murdered in front of him, and because the murderer isn’t totally punished, he avenges his family by torturing the murderer and then taking out those in the justice system. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for a few details. First off, he’s killing people who had nothing to do with the trial, which means he’s doing most of his killing in cold blood. Second, he breaks so many laws in his quest for revenge. Kidnapping and impersonating an officer, withholding information, the aforementioned murders, and even perjury at one point. Third, and most importantly, the reason he believes the system is so corrupt and must be taken down…is because of a plea bargain. Something that happens all the time here in America. This is an issue because this is our protagonist, the guy we’re supposed to sympathize with. And he becomes a self-righteous serial killer over a flipping plea bargain. I have no problem with him wanting to be a vigilante, but there’s a reason why Batman doesn’t murder. And that’s because he has a moral code. If he kills someone like The Joker or Harvey Dent, then he becomes the thing he sought out to end in the first place. He felt the pain of losing someone he loves right in front of him, and he doesn’t want others to feel that same pain. But Shelton comes off more as Jason Todd. A man willing to commit murder after murder but won’t deal with the consequences. In fact, Shelton is essentially a spoiled brat who throws a temper tantrum after someone tells him “No” for the first time and takes his frustrations out on everyone else.
On the other side, we have Nick, who’s just doing his job and trying to protect his family and his colleagues from Leonidas the man-baby. As for the other characters, they’re either painfully stupid or completely pointless. Take Shelton’s wife and kid, for example. They only get two or three lines of dialogue at most and then get killed off in the first three minutes. They’re not even in the same room. So how are supposed to care for him and his family if we don’t even get to know anything about them? I mean, Nick’s family doesn’t appear much either, but at least we do get some scenes with them interacting with each other. That’s something. As for dumb characters, look no further than the judge. Not only does she not punish the guy who murdered Shelton’s family–he should’ve at least gotten some time in prison instead of getting off the hook–but she doesn’t even charge Shelton for lying in court even after he admits to it in his own trial! The most she does is hold him in contempt. Come on, Judge Judy wouldn’t pull this crap. I know I’ve ranted for a while, but with so much wrong with most of these characters, can you really blame me?
Acting–If this film had anything going for it aside from the premise, it’s the acting. While the only names I seem to know are Butler and Foxx, they at least try to make the most out of the weak script. Speaking of which…
Writing–Like I said before, most of what’s holding this movie back is the writing. They did a terrible job of making anything work. It’s trying to convince us that the justice system is evil when the worst they do is let a murderous rapist go free, and even then, that’s the judge’s fault. If we actually saw any evidence of their corruption, then maybe Shelton’s actions would be somewhat justified. What if Rice and the murderer were in cahoots the whole time? Sure it would be dumb, but it would give Shelton a decent reason to after both of them. Also, wanna know how Shelton is able to kill people without leaving his cell? Well, there was one character I didn’t mention earlier–an unnamed person that reveals that Shelton was a military spy and that he has a vast knowledge of turrets and other gadgets. So are we to assume that putting him in the Army is supposed to make him anymore likable or anymore of a character? Because I don’t buy it. I may respect the military, mainly because I do have friends and family who are or were in the military, but that doesn’t excuse anything this guy did. It’s like Mr. Enter said in his review of the Family Guy episode “Herpe The Love Sore”. Just because they’re Veterans doesn’t mean that they should get a free pass for doing something wrong. Plus, it doesn’t explain the tunnel system he built from his cell to a control bunker. Where did he find the time or resources to not only make tunnels, but also make a control tower for his turrets? And if he didn’t build the tower, how did he find it in the first place? For that matter, who the flying fudge just keeps a control tower underground? Maybe I’m asking stupid questions, but some things need an explanation. Let’s move on before I completely lose it.
Style–Another thing I really liked is the film’s look. It has some nice camera angles, the effects are nice, and it at least tries to give some tense moments. Good to know that someone was doing their job.
But good acting and competent cinematography doesn’t excuse the botched story, unlikable characters, and poor writing. If you want a story where a monster like Kira or Heisenberg is the hero, that’s fine. But don’t forget to add a little bit of Light Yagami or Walter White to them. You have to make them human. Because that’s the part of them that the audience latches onto. That’s what we sympathize with. And without those moments of humanity, all you have is something disgusting. And in the end, that’s why I don’t like this movie as much as someone like Roger Ebert did. They had the right pieces for a nice satire or commentary on justice, similar to something like Psycho-Pass, but it falls flat in the execution.
Final Score: 2/5
I’m Chilton, and remember: Just because justice is blind doesn’t mean it’s also stupid!
title card by Kade Fisher