Law Abiding Citizen F. Gary Gray
Published Oct 15, 2009While Zack Snyder's 300 may have been hopelessly moronic, it did prove a point: don't piss off Gerard Butler. But the violence visited upon some digitally matted Persians pales in comparison to Butler's lethal machinations in Law Abiding Citizen, easily the most massively entertaining action thriller since Taken.
After his family is murdered by home invaders that duck the death penalty due to a plea bargain agreement struck with careerist attorney Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), Clyde Shelton (Butler) spends ten years masterminding an elaborate plan to strike back at not only the killers but anyone involved in the compromised legal proceedings.
But "elaborate" is a bit of an understatement. What Shelton devises is more like an impossibly intricate Rube Goldberg contraption of violence involving underground tunnels, elaborate costuming and videotaped castration. Burned by the system, Shelton is seeking justice with a capital-J, happily incarcerating himself and taking advantage of numerous legal loopholes in his quest to prove to Rice and his cohorts that the American justice system is incurably corrupted.
Butler's Shelton is the most formidable of opponents. Before his wife and daughter were snuffed, he worked as a "tinkerer" for the American government, formulating complex black ops plots to take down the bad guys, so his ability to outsmart the entire Philadelphia police force, the mayor, the D.A.'s office and anyone else stupid enough to underestimate him are unparalleled.
Like Taken, Law Abiding Citizen is that exceptional sort of thriller that, in so gleefully indulging in overkill, doubles as a comedy. (It's hard not to laugh when a judge says something like, "The best part about being a judge is you can do whatever you want" and then somehow gets shot through the head.)
Sure, there are rare moments when the film suffers in taking itself too seriously but on the whole Shelton's quest to, as he eloquently phrases it, "kill everyone" is B-movie excess at its best. (Alliance)