By Greg Schulte
Law Abiding Citizen takes revenge to a whole new level. Although graphic and somewhat sadistic in its methods, the film ultimately works well as a suspenseful tale of a man’s vengeance against what he sees as a corrupt justice system.
The movie, which takes place in Philadelphia, opens suddenly with a robbery in progress: Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is forced by criminals to witness the murder of his wife and daughter.
The criminals are apprehended, but Shelton is aghast by how lenient the justice system treats them. While one is given a death sentence, the other received only a couple of years in prison.
As a result, Shelton goes crazy with thoughts of revenge against all of the people who worked on this case, including his lawyer Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx).
The bulk of the movie takes place 10 years after the trial, when Rice discovers the two men who killed Shelton’s family were slaughtered in mysterious fashion. Shelton is ultimately arrested, admitting he was responsible for the deaths.
While Shelton is in jail, however, other people involved in his family’s case are being systematically slaughtered. Soon, Rice discovers that Shelton was once a mastermind for international spies, helping design weapons to assist in stealth assassinations.
Rice must now race against the clock to save his friends while Shelton sits in his cell and enjoys the destruction of the corrupt justice system.
The film, directed by F. Gary Gray, who also directed The Italian Job, features a combination of great action and suspense. One problem, however, is that the movie rarely offers any back-story details to help viewers grow attached to the characters.
It is all headfirst action sequences without any real development. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, as it keeps the movie hurtling forward and keeps the audience guessing.
In Law Abiding Citizen, Foxx sheds his comedic roots and takes on a serious role as a lawyer with a passion to win cases at all costs.
Butler plays the good father turned manic serial killer by what he sees as a travesty of justice. Before the movie is finished, he’s taking out targets with everything from guns to bombs triggered by radio signals or by the push of a button.
It’s these clever assassinations that help the movie succeed. The suspense builds as the audience tries to guess who and when the next person will be killed.