Law Abiding Citizen
Release Date: October 16, 2009
“And vengeance keeps you warm at night?” a cliché liner said by Nick Rice, Jamie Foxx’s character in Law Abiding Citizen.
The movie? Iffy. The acting, all right.
Director F. Gary Gray, known for countless movie classics including Friday starring Ice Cube, Chris Tucker and the philandering pastor played by the late Bernie Mac; Set It Off featuring Jada Pickett-Smith, Vivica A. Fox and the Dana “Queen Latifah” Owens; and The Italian Job starring Mark Walhberg, Charlize Theron and Donald Sutherland; did his best with the muddled story line he was given by Kurt Wimmer.
Never heard of this Wimmer guy. But without throwing him completely under the bus, his most notable work was in 2003 with The Recruit starring Al Pacino, which garnered two award nominations — MTV Movie Award and Teen Choice Award.
Regardless to his nominations, the script is peppered with obvious signs of unseasoned writing, including the “filler-in” rhetoric dialogue between Foxx’s and Leslie Bibb’s (Confessions of a Shopaholic) character, Sarah Lowell. Case in point, leading up to a very critical time, the entire District Attorney’s Office and the New York Police Department are fervently trying to stop Clyde Shelton, played by Gerard Butler (300), a revengeful killer, just before he killed six justices of the peace. Nonessential talking is just one of those things that “grinds my gears.”
Also, take out the fleshly overacting, including Jamie Foxx who was forcing sustenance into his empty, self-centered character (just like he did with Willie Beaman in Any Given Sunday) and the story line actually has potential.
Initial viewer engagement begins when Shelton and his family are enjoying a peaceful family evening at home before violently being interrupted by two intruders who hold them hostage, bound and gag them in their own home. Shelton, helpless, is forced to watch his wife and daughter be tortured and killed.
Like any emotionally charged human being, Shelton’s conscious is mounted with insurmountable guilt, but like an obedient citizen, he waits for the nation’s judicial system to bring his family’s memory to justice. Maybe he should have watched Frank Capra’s 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; then, he wouldn’t have expected so much and become a psychopath vigilante for the rest of the movie.
There’s not much to say after Shelton dismembers a free Clarence Darby, one of the two intruders played by Christian Stolte (Public Enemies), one appendage at a time, tapes it and sends it to Rice’s house whose daughter, exaggeratedly, (whoops!) sees it. It is a brutally failed attempt to pay homage to the sequel of SAW.
Shelton confesses to the murder of Darby and as he continues to kill, he continues to confess. He is in jail. How does he keep doing it? It’s almost outrageous, borderline annoying when the top officials on the case suggest, in fact, believe, that he possibly has insider help. Even Scrappy Doo can sniff out that this is a one-man operation.
Besides Shelton carrying out his death threats and feeling less than remorseful, the oddest thing happens in the movie towards the end. Gray throws in a hint of symbolism and Butler’s character captures a shadow of emotion, more of a longing after his rampage comes to a screeching halt.
Again great potential, but I still want to know why the intruders did it? What did they gain from committing such a heinous act? I think I am due at least somewhat of an explanation since their crime jump starts the movie; and, especially if most of the movie is spent hassling Shelton for seeking justice in his own revolutionary, psychotic way. I feel a little empty.
Can’t wait to see what Gray does with The Story of Marvin Gaye.