Law Abiding Citizen was a bit of a disappointment for me. I know what the filmmakers’ were after by making giving the audience a difficult choice of which character to ‘root’ for, but the moral choice didn’t work for me.
Law Abiding Citizen
Genre(s): Suspense/Thriller, Drama
Lionsgate | R/Unrated – 109 min. – $22.99 | November 6, 2018
Date Published: 11/17/2018 | Author: The Movieman
Lionsgate provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post.
The opinions I share are my own.
THE MOVIE — 3.0/5
Note: This review is of the “Unrated Director’s Cut” and portions were copied over from my 2010 Blu-ray review.
I’m sure director F. Gary Gray and writer Kurt Wimmer had a great psychological thriller on their hands on paper, the problem is, and this seems to happen all too often, what comes onto the big screen thanks to pacing or even casting, doesn’t translate very well.
The story behind Law Abiding Citizen is about Clyde Shelton (GERARD BUTLER), a family man whose wife and daughter are brutally raped and murdered. It’s never explained why he was left alive, but the two thugs who committed the crime are arrested. When hotshot and on the rise prosecutor Nick Rice (JAMIE FOXX), who has a 96% conviction rate, tells Clyde that he doesn’t have much of a case thanks to contaminated evidence, he is going to offer one of the men a plea bargain in exchange for his testimony against the other man. Apparently it’s not enough that both men could be convicted of felony murder (murder committed during the act of a felony), but the one getting the plea bargain is the man, Darby, who did the raping and presumably killing. Makes sense. With the plea, he will receive only 5 years while the other man, named Aimes, gets the death penalty.
Flash forward 10 years and Aimes is set to get the needle. Everything is going well until one of the chemicals gets into his system and sends shocking pain through him. This is only the beginning as Darby, trying to escape from the police after being suspected of Aimes’ brutal execution, runs right into Clyde who promptly kidnaps him and takes him to Clyde’s abandoned warehouse where the torture truly starts.
After Darby’s separated remains are found, the police – and D.A.’s office for some reason – immediately get onto Shelton’s trail finding him in a remote home and buck naked. He is taken into custody and the mind games then begin as Rice decides to take the lead in interrogating Clyde. After some back and forth in which Clyde makes it clear, without stating outright, that he committed the murders, he wants a plea deal for his full confession: a nice mattress to replace the crappy one in his jail cell. Moving forward, it’s not entirely that simple and eventually his master plan is revealed that he is going to target people he feel are responsible for the wrong that has been done him and his family.
How does he do it from behind bars? Does he have an accomplice? Well, the reveal of how it was all done is quite clever… and ultimately really lame when you thought about it afterwards. In any case, Nick grows increasingly frustrated and angry and will stop at nothing to stop Clyde before he is able to kill any more innocents before it’s too late.
Even a few days after watching the movie, I’m still unsure exactly what to think about it, which is actually a good thing that I am still thanking about the movie after some time. However, I can only come with one conclusion: I could not like or care about either one of the main characters. First, I never like Jamie Foxx’s character especially since he was spineless and signed a plea bargain with a rapist rather than taking his chances and go to trial (it came across that the only reason he took the deal was to keep his nearly spotless record intact). Second, I absolutely had sympathy for Gerard Butler’s character as any husband/father who witnessed something so horrendous would be transformed for the worse and would want to exact revenge on a justice system that let him down, but then he crosses the line from revenge on the villains and went after innocent civilians and those who had nothing to do with the plea bargain and that took things in a different direction.
I think one of the solutions to this problem to the change of a sympathetic villain to a truly insane and evil one that Shelton turned into would have been to take the plea bargain out of Rice’s hands and instead had his boss (played by Bruce McGill) force it on him that way once the turn is made in the movie, we at least would have had sympathy for one of these characters rather than hanging on to the last 40-minutes or so and hate both of them and wish they’d both would die. It’s never a good thing when you have an already inane plot twist coupled with characters you don’t like.
As for the acting, I thought Gerard Butler was OK with what he was given. The opening was certainly horrific and hard to watch, yet Butler played it perfect. The rest of his performance struck the right tone throughout but it doesn’t go beyond menacing faces and threats. As for Jamie Foxx, winner of an Academy Award, it’s really all the same we’ve seen from him before. He acts like a tool from the onset and doesn’t turn back.
Director F. Gary Gray has proven to be a capable director in the past and since didn’t have much (if anything) to do with the script, I can’t fault him here. The pacing for the film was just right and really, despite the issues I had with the characters and plot.
On the other hand, one can also take aim at screenwriter Kurt Wimmer. Wimmer you might recall also wrote (and directed) Equilibrium and Ultraviolet as well as writing some decent flicks like The Thomas Crown Affair remake, The Recruit, Street Kings and Salt.. But as I’ve already said, the problem especially with the characters made me turn on the film on the whole, no matter how interesting the story may have been on paper. Like I suggested, if once that turn was made from Shelton becoming a sympathetic villain to an evil genius — and yes, he would have to be Einstein genius to accomplish what he does in this film –, then our sympathies must turn to someone else, but there is no one I could care about for the last third of the film… And that falls squarely on Wimmer’s shoulders.
Overall, Law Abiding Citizen has some merits going for it but I just could not get past two ass-hat characters and a plot twist that might’ve sounded fantastic during pre-production meetings doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, in the world the film is set in (i.e. a realistic world). I would go into this cautiously because this might be a case where you either loved the film or hated it.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.25/5
This release comes with a glossy slip cover and inside the redemption code for the Digital HD copy. The 4K disc only contains the Theatrical Version. The Blu-ray disc has the Unrated Director’s Cut which runs about 9-minutes longer.
Feature Commentary – The theatrical cut includes a commentary with Producers Lucas Foster and Alan Siegel. The two give some behind-the-scenes insight into the making of the film and how it all started before moving onto the story and characters.
The Justice of Law Abiding Citizen (6:15) – This is a basic, but on the surface interesting, featurette filled with clips from the film followed by sound clips with members of the crew (producer Lucas Foster and Director F. Gary Gray) and a former prosecutor and ADA who explain the crimes in the movie. The experts explain how difficult the case shown in the movie would’ve been to prosecute and win.
Law in Black and White: Behind the Scenes (15:06) – Once again, we get some more sound bites from the members of the cast and crew sprinkled in with footage from the movie as well as behind-the-scenes footage. It’s not terribly fascinating or anything, but gives you a little insight into the filmmaking process.
Preliminary Arguments: Visual Effects Progressions (6:46) – Here we get to look at the progressions of five scenes (death row, snow enhancement, gun injection, prison explosion, car crash pre-vis) with overlaid commentary by producer Lucas Foster.
Finally the disc has something called The Verdict: Winning Trailer Mash-Up (1:05) and the regular Theatrical Trailer (2:26).
VIDEO – 4.0/5
|Lionsgate releases Law Abiding Citizen on 4K UHD where it is presented with a 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and given a fine if not underwhelming 2160p high-definition transfer (HEVC codec). While this wasn’t exactly an overly impressive 4K transfer, there was an ever so moderate difference over an already decent Blu-ray video. Colors are generally more on the tame side geared more toward darker tones in keeping with the story. Even so, detail was generally sharp and at least there were some pop of color such as with the numerous explosions that occur throughout the movie.|
AUDIO – 4.75/5
|The movie gets a slight upgrade from the Blu-rays Dolby TrueHD 5.1 to a strong and robust Atmos track. This a great sounding track providing both clear dialogue and nice depth via the front and rear channels that ranged from ambient noises to the reverberations from the action with an extra boost from the LFE which shook the floor and wall.|
OVERALL – 3.75/5
Law Abiding Citizen was a bit of a disappointment for me. I know what the filmmakers’ were after by making giving the audience a difficult choice of which character to ‘root’ for, but the moral choice didn’t work for me and I ended up being soured towards both Butler and Foxx’s characters. The 4K release has a good video transfer to go along with great audio while the features were merely okay.
The screen captures came from the Blu-ray copy and are here to add visuals to the review and do not represent the 4K video.