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Thursday, 11 February 2010

Law Abiding Citizen

There are two kinds of vigilante movies: the ones where the hero - after seeing his or her family abused and murdered by criminal scum - declares war on criminals in general, and the ones where the hero declares war on the criminals directly responsible for his or her torment. One of the many reasons why Law Abiding Citizen doesn't work is because it's a strange mix of the two - but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

When nice guy Clyde Shelton (Gerald Butler) sees his family raped and murdered in front of him by a pair of home-invading thugs, he has ever right to expect justice. Slick lawyer Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), on the other hand, just wants to get the case out of the way so he can keep moving smoothly up the ladder. So surprise surprise, while the lesser of the two evil thugs gets the death sentence, the really nasty piece of work gets off because he cut a deal and gave evidence against his partner. Fast forward five years, Rice is now the DA, and when bad guy number two's execution goes horribly wrong no-one really cares all that much. When bad guy number one turns up chopped into little pieces tho, attention turns to Clyde - and so begins one of those games of cat and mouse that are totally silly the second you spend even one second thinking about them.

There are plenty of twists and turns here, especially once Clyde gets himself locked up just as the vigilante starts targeting members of the legal community, but in every single case the explanation is so ridiculous whatever tension or thrills this might have had vanish without a backwards glance. For example, it's one thing to kill someone with a remote-controlled robot in a graveyard, but how did the robot - which is basically a massive gun on wheels - get to the graveyard in the first place? Butler gets stuck playing a mild-mannered guy who is also a super-smart insanely evil genius, while Foxx is just a slick and unlikeable lawyer; can both guys lose? Actually, no they can't - no matter who wins, the audience is the real loser here.

Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #473)

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