18 August 2012

Film: Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

Thoughts: Even though it rests heavily on some very, VERY convenient plot contrivances, and could stand a bit more judicious trimming, Law Abiding Citizen still provides some entertainment and a fairly cathartic release against our outdated, outmoded and exhausted justice machine.

The film opens without much pause, as we see the family of inventor Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) murdered right before his very eyes in a standard home invasion. In the time that follows, we see his case tossed around the legal system by his record-maintaining attorney Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), eventually settling on an outcome that sees the least responsible invader get the death penalty, and the instigator a paltry 3 years with bail. Needless to say, this does not sit well with Mr. Shelton, who ten years later sets his plan against the entire legal system in motion, starting with his outright murdering of the two men who committed the abhorrent acts against his family in the first place. But even after he is taken and placed into solitary confinement, Shelton keeps on meting out complete "justice" against those who wronged him, despite his immobility. How is it possible?

Of course, the question posited above is answered by the films end, but that doesn't mean it is completely clean cut. Even upon rather shallow inspection the whole thing starts to fall apart, with seams and cracks appearing without much thought. I won't go into detail just yet, but suffice to say, think about it long enough, and your brain will start to hurt from the many links (or should I say, chinks) in the chain of circumstance. That said though, the film still offers up cheap thrills and visceral entertainment of the most brutal sort. We get to see people taken out in the most bloodiest of fashions: mobile phone bomb to the head, death by torture and dismemberment, a prolonged, on camera death by T-bone steak leftover to carotid artery. The film certainly doesn't shy away from the kills- in fact, you could even say it revels in them. But with pulpy entertainment like this, it's almost forgivable, but not quite. A little more subtlety can go a long way, as well as perhaps cutting a little more through the boring chit-chat between all the various legal members throughout the film.

The performances are fine and broad enough, with our anti-hero suitably full of bile and more than possibly deranged- the only thing missing is flying spittle during his many tirades against the system. Foxx actually does interesting work here; you could say he phones it in, but personally I think his rather muted performance has a lot more effort behind it than we give it credit. I mean, he is up against a lunatic with a penchant for tricky, almost-impossible kills. All the support cast give ample but unmemorable performances.

So in all, I guess you could save this one for the boys, or fans of pulpy, fuck the system type films. I did find myself wandering a fair bit (there really is a lot of talking and ruminating and so forth) but altogether, it's an OK flick. Feel free to surprise the wife with it, I did! Those first 5 minutes were magic!


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