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Law Abiding Citizen…really?

October 31, 2009

I like Gerald Butler. I’m not afraid to admit that I bawled during “P.s. I love you” and set flight many a daydreams amongst the lush emerald green cinematography of that film, which lovely precipitated my own adventure in the Emerald Isle. Butler lighted up that film and others, accent and all, and seems like a genuine guy in interviews, and I was looking forward to him taking on edgier roles.

I like Jamie Fox. Who doesn’t like Jamie Fox? The man can sing, act, and is funny. “Ray” got to everyone, including me. I like him better in films than on CD, and I really enjoyed him in “Miami Vice” – he plays such a bad ass good guy.

So you see, I had high expectations for “Law Abiding Citizen“. A taut thriller! The advertising exclaims. Butler AND Fox! A mystery plot that will leave you spinning! Well, that plot should have been left spinning all the way to the end, through the credits and off the screen, until the theater is empty and everyone has left, and the cleaners have come in to sweep up for the next show. Yeah. That would be a good time to reveal the secret, because it’s such a bad secret that anyone paying for the film shouldn’t be subject to seeing it.

A little harsh, you say? Maybe. But only because I actually enjoyed the rest of the film, quite a lot too. Gary Gray winds us up pretty tight, tick-tock tick-tock, by the clock. The film begins with Butler’s character, Clyde, being brutally attacked in his home and watch while his wife and child is slaughtered by two assailants. No reason is given. It looks like one of those cruel coincidences in life. Wrong time, wrong place.

Clyde survives the incident physically but is broken to pieces inside. In comes Nick (Fox), the superstar District Attorney who has a 95%..oh wait, oops, sorry, 97% conviction rate. Nick is all about success, and doesn’t want to risk letting both assailants go free. He cuts a deal with one of them, we the audience, see that it’s with the wrong one, and that it screams human injustice. So does Clyde. There is a shot of Clyde watching Nick and the scumbag on the courthouse steps after the deal is announced. The look on his face set my gut in a wrench, and that’s when I completely sign up to the rest of the movie.

But then…things start to get funky. And I mean, ludicrously funky. People start dying left right and center. It’s revenge time. I get it. I was on the ride by this point, like I said, and I was enjoying it. It is a fun ride. Clyde is arrogantly demanding, and there is a tinge of sweetness in his methods, the way he so bluntly rights the wrong that we all know was done to him. We relish through him, because deep down we are not shedding tears, and some of us probably would have done the same.

Then…pieces start to drop into place and god, I was hoping, hoping, as the film reels determinately towards its purposed end, that it wouldn’t settle for such a simple and ludicrous solution. It did. I won’t spoil it for you, but it requires a future seeing ability that, frankly, if Clyde possessed, it’s ironic that he didn’t employ it to make a better home security system.

Anyway, that’s all that I can say about this film. Any more would be…well, too revealing. It is consolation that the reveal was kept to the last possible minute, I guess. But in a way, that made me feel more robbed than ever of my sympathy for Clyde by jolting me out of the ride I was happily on all the way up till then. Gerald Butler and Jamie Fox turn in fine performances here, it’s just too bad that the plot lifts them up through such a high arc in the air only for a steep drop at the end. Leslie Bibb was lovely, and was underused as the female sidekick. Viola Davis steals the scenes she’s in as Mayor. The whole movie just feels like a let down by the end, but then I guess I should have expected it from a Hollywood definition of a “taut thriller”.

Oh, one last thing, at the very end, look at the flames that engulf the room and tell me if that is not the worse CGI fire ever?

My suggestion: watch the film up to the last 10 minutes, then walk out. Let your imagination provide the better ending.

On second thought, this trailer gives away everything about the film – including the scenes mentioned above. Ugh, why do studios do that?? Is there no respect for the value of mystery any more?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2009 5:03 PM

    Speaking of trailers, I got the special 20th anniversary edition of Halloween, which includes the original theatrical mo–I mean, trailer. Yeah. Good thing I bought it on VHS (it played after the movie), had seen the movie already, and so didn’t have every great thing about the movie (and most of the scary scenes) ruined for me–because they were all in the trailer, along with a voice that kept saying, “Halloween,” after each clip (then at the end of the trailer, “Halloween. The night he [emphasized] came home.”) I think people that make trailers should learn that trailers should wet the appetite of film goers, not stuff them until they can’t move.

  2. November 2, 2009 9:55 AM

    The worst trailer I can remember is the one for “Ransom”. The entire twist was revealed and we already knew who the kidnappers were. It kind of ruined the whole thing.

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