Law Abiding Citizen review (blog)

Category: Law Abiding Citizen Reviews | Posted by: stagewomanjen
Article Date: December 1, 2009 | Publication: wordpress.com | Author: Craig Wilson
Publication/Article Link:http://cpwilson.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/law-abiding-citizen/

It’s such a boring name for a movie isn’t it? Considering a man is killed using a circular saw and a Caribbean puffer fish, well that’s surely got to have broken at least a couple of laws. Right?

It’s also quite misleading. Engineer and family man Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is a law abiding citizen for all of about 40 seconds before two psychopaths bust into his home and murder his wife and daughter. Unfortunately due to a bungled forensic investigation and the egotism of smart-ass prosecutor Nick “would-rather-go-to-a-deathrow-execution-that-his-own-daughter’s-cello-recital” Rice (Jamie Foxx), only one of the killers is brought to justice. So begins the lament of Clyde.

That is until ten years pass and Clyde begins targeting those involved in the botched trial in some of the most orchestrated and elaborate murders I have ever seen (had I never seen Saw. Or Dexter. Or Death Wish. Or next year’s Saw).


Law Abiding Citizen drifts between the genres in a haphazard fashion. It’s like letting my Gran drive; the changes are clumsy and forced but we are moving ahead at such speed that you can’t help but look forward to see what happens next.

At times you are watching a gripping legal thriller. Clyde, who is imprisoned but never convicted, uses his extensive knowledge of criminal law to gently tug at the strings of the legal system tying Nick and his team up in knots. Ah ha, you think, he’s using the law as his weapon. But just as you think the battle will be fought in court, Clyde bizarrely orders a medium-rare T-bone steak and decrees that if it is not served at exactly one o’clock, a high-profile lawyer will die. And just like that we are catapulted back into the bloated ‘puffer fish’ territory of Saw.

At its heart though, Law Abiding Citizen is a cat-and-mouse chase between Nick and Clyde. It’s the tension between the two, with Clyde always two moves ahead, that keeps the film interesting. That said there isn’t much in the way of chemistry between Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx. While it’s nice to see Butler in a non-Persian-punting role, Foxx’s performance is flat by comparison. I continued disliking the smart-ass prosecutor way past the point where I should have been routing for him. Any number of actors spring to mind who would suit the role better but I guess Denzel must have been busy or something.

Clyde promises early on that things are going to “get biblical”. To be fair the appearance of a number of plot holes and inconsistencies strike me as more farcical than biblical. Specifically the origin of Clyde’s tactical prowess and explanation of how he kills while imprisoned. But these quirks come late enough in the movie so to be forgiven completely.

Law Abiding Citizen took a chance by mixing genres and it paid off. The tension and drama are ratcheted right up there and the seemingly odd changes keep the plot unpredictable and enthralling. I just wish they’d given it a better name.