DVD Release Date: February 16, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: October 16, 2009
Rating: R (for strong bloody brutal violence and torture, a scene of rape, and pervasive language)
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Run Time: 108 min.
Director: F. Gary Gray
Actors: Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler, Colm Meaney, Leslie Bibb, Bruce McGill, Michael Irby, Viola Davis, Regina Hall
Remember Street Kings from last year? It starred Keanu Reeves as a cop surrounded by corruption. Beyond that, I don't remember much about it—and I had to review it. It was lousy, done in by a poor screenplay that doomed everyone involved with the project.
One of three credited screenwriters on Street Kings, Kurt Wimmer is solely responsible for the script of Law Abiding Citizen, and judging by the dismal evidence of this preposterous film, it's pretty clear that Wimmer bears much of the responsibility for the botched Street Kings.
Somebody stop him before he writes again.
Mixing sexual violence with moments of torture-porn, Law Abiding Citizen is one of the year's low points at the cinema—an offensive, ugly piece of work that offers no moral nor anything memorable except its sadism.
Gerard Butler stars as Clyde Shelton, who, in the film's opening moment, is sharing a warm family moment with his wife and daughter when intruders break in, rape the wife and then kill both her and Shelton's daughter. Prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), with a 96 percent conviction rate on the line, allows one intruder to testify against the other, ensuring that one of the killers will face the death penalty. The other, Clarence Darby (Christian Stolte), serves his time and is released, but Shelton, unhappy with Rice's arrangement, isn't about to let him enjoy his freedom.
Darby, who likes to say "you can't fight fate," ends up car-jacking a cop who turns out to be Shelton in disguise. Shelton injects Darby with a toxin from a Caribbean blowfish, paralyzing the man but still allowing him to feel pain, and then proceeds to explain to Darby all of the ways in which he's going to inflict extreme pain upon the convict. He makes a video of the proceedings and mails it to Rice, but the video ends up in the hands of a child, who gets a peek at Shelton taking a circular saw to Darby's legs.
Charming, no? When the film isn't wallowing in cheap moments designed to stir easy outrage, it's carrying out the rest of Shelton's absurd revenge plot. He can muck with a state-run execution, be in the right police vehicle at just the right time, arrange to have an unmanned weapon machine-gun a high-ranking official, and then fire a rocket into the official's vehicle, just to finish him off. He also can arrange a few car bombs and then recoil in horror when someone suggests that his motive might be vengeance.
Director F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job) and star Butler (300) haven't shown a knack for quality films in the past, but the same can't be said for Jamie Foxx. How Foxx went from winning an Oscar a few short years ago for Ray to starring in a film of this low caliber is something best not pondered too long. Let's hope he gets back to work on something better soon.
Law Abiding Citizen is a deep embarrassment for all involved, but it will be most painful for anyone who wastes their time and money on it. If you need a reminder of how good Foxx can be in a thoughtful thriller helmed by an expert director, check out his Oscar-nominated performance in Michael Mann's Collateral. The contrast with his work in Law Abiding Citizen is night and day.
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- Language/Profanity: "Swear to G-d"; Helen Keller joke; the "f" word, including "motherf--ker"; "crazy-a--"; "hard-a--"; reference to male sex organ; "sh-t"; "a--holes"; "dumb--s"; reference to anal sex; "b—ch."
- Smoking/Drinking/Drugs: Drugs are snorted.
- Sex/Nudity: A woman is raped during a home invasion, and although there is no nudity, we see the perpetrator looking down on the woman as he finishes assaulting her; a woman's bare backside; male rear nudity.
- Violence/Crime: Home invasion depicted, with a man bound and witness to the off-screen murders of his wife and daughter; a lawyer says "some justice is better than no justice at all"; death by lethal injection doesn't go smoothly; an executed man's corpse is badly bruised; police are shot at; a police officer is carjacked; forcible injection of a drug; a temporarily paralyzed man can still feel pain, and is threatened with various forms of torture; we see brief shots of his tormenter cutting into him with a saw, then the aftermath, when the man's head appears to be separated from his body, and blood is everywhere; an inmate stabs another inmate to death; a man bent on revenge says his acts have nothing to do with vengeance; multiple explosions, including car bombs; punching; machine-gunning of automobiles; a missile hits its target.
- Marriage/Family: A man avenges the murder of his wife and daughter.
- Religion: The killer's catch phrase is, "You can't fight fate"; a man threatens "biblical" retaliation; reference to a movie about good conquering evil and the righteous prospering.