This film is like bad sex. It starts off creative, exciting and full of anticipation, only to leave you going ‘that’s it?’ when all is said and done. Law Abiding Citizen, directed by F. Gary Gray and written by Kurt Wimmer stars Gerard Butler as Clyde Shelton a justice seeking citizen of Philadelphia and Jaimie Foxx as Nick Rice, an ambitious District Attorney.
The first 10 minutes of this film are incredible. Shelton witnesses the horrific murders of his wife and daughter and he’s unable to do anything to prevent it. Shelton wants justice, much like any of us in this situation would and he is forced, against his better judgment, to agree to a plea bargain orchestrated by DA Nick Rice. The bargin will see Rupert Ames, one of the men responsible for the murder’s on death row, while Clarence Darby, the other man responsible, only has to serve 10 years in federal prison. These 10 minutes set the film’s tone perfectly. They leave a bad taste in the audience’s mouth and they allow you to empathize 100% with Clyde Shelton.
10 years pass and Shelton still wants justice for his wife and daughter. In well orchestrated fashion, Shelton begins exacting his own form of justice on those he feel prevented it from happening 10 years ago with DA Nick Rice as the ultimate target. This is however, where the fall of this film begins. Shelton is a genius and those who knew him in the 10 years since the murders all bear witness to the fact that ‘what Shelton wants, Shelton gets’ and this includes wrecking havoc on the city of Philadelphia from the inside of a jail cell.
Wimmer’s social commentary for the first 60 minutes of the film is a good one – who does justice serve? The audience spends 60 minutes watching the calculated efforts of a man searching for the answer and just when it looks like the answer is coming into focus, the film does a 180. Suddenly the dialog that was thought-provoking disappears, the empathy that you felt towards Shelton disappears, and the fear you felt for DA Rice is replaced with a strong dislike for his character. It’s a shame considering this film could have been one of the more thought-provoking films of the year. Instead, it pulls all of the punches it was set to deliver and falls flat.
Seeing this film in the theater is a waste of your money, so save yourself $12.50 and rent it when it comes out on DVD. So disappointing.