Thursday, February 25, 2010

Law Abiding Citizen

The Law Abiding Citizen is Gerard Butler's Clyde Shelton, a small-time inventor who answers the door one day only to be greeted by a baseball bat to the face. He watches while his wife and daughter are slaughtered. Then watches again, years later, when Assistant D.A. Nick Rice, played by a dapper Jamie Foxx, makes a deal and lets the killer do three years in prison. Shelton sets up chain of events that convicts the killer, and his accomplice, in his own way, seeking his own style of justice, but he doesn't stop there.

It's a story we've heard before. Recently, we watched Jodie Foster in The Brave One avenge her fiance's death as well as others who seemed to deserve a deadly fate. Foster, however, regretted every move she made. Not so here. We can see the satisfaction in Butler's eyes as his plan comes through again and again.

In the first 20 minutes Shelton has avenged his family's death. What, then, could possibly be awaiting us? His revenge on the entire justice system in Philadelphia. A tall task, you ask, but not for Shelton, who isn't as small-time as he seems. He has new ways of killing people, of planning it, of telling Foxx's D.A. what he intends to do. And much to Foxx's consternation, and our growing apprehension, Shelton succeeds.

I'm a fan of Gerard Butler, but not necessarily of his acting, in which I find one pose: steeliness. Foxx is very good here, but you knew he would be, as a self-assured lawyer who has figured out the system and does everything he can to play the game well and protect his 96% conviction rate. It's great to see the mild-mannered, soft-spoken attorney change before our eyes. In fact, the entire cast is very good, and gives us people, characters, upon which we can anchor our feelings. Colm Meaney is terrific as the sarcastic, hard-nosed detective, and it's always great to see Bruce McGill, a veteran of the game as the city's District Attorney. A surprise here is Viola Davis, so terrific in Doubt, who plays the mayor; she's in the movie all too briefly.

There are a few moments which stretch incredulity -- maybe more than a few. The movie isn't as gripping as it probably should be, but the actors make up for the slow parts. For the most part, I found the movie quite watchable.

Thumb's up.


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