Monday, October 19, 2009

Upright Citizen's Tirade

Law Abiding Citizen is better than I thought it would be and didn't end the way I thought it would. That doesn't mean it wasn't dumb. It was.

The movie opens ten years ago. Gerard Butler plays Clyde Shelton, a wealthy inventor who lives an idyllic life with his wife and daughter until the day two thieves stage a home invasion that results in the rapes and murders of both his wife and his daughter who looks to be about six. Prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) accepts a plea bargain from the guy who actually committed the really sick crimes so that the one who just wanted to rob the place and leave would go to death row. This drives Clyde Shelton insane.

Ten years later, it's execution day for the one who committed society's greatest offense, failure to plea bargain. Things don't quite go according to plan though. Instead of being sedated during his lethal injection, the chemicals get mixed up and he ends up being awake throughout the entire induced heart attack. Later in the day, we see Clyde Shelton kidnap, torture and gruesomely murder the one who only spent a few years in jail. Ok, so far, so good. Shelton took revenge on the men who killed his family. Most of society would still take pity on him even if they couldn't condone taking the law into his own hands. Nick Rice even tells him as much but Shelton doesn't stop there. He kills the lawyer who arranged the plea bargain. He kills the judge who threw out the DNA evidence. He kills his cellmate. Huh? Why does he do that?

This is where it starts getting dumb. It turns out Shelton was some sort of super assassin some years back and not one of those bland "shoot from the bell tower" assassins either. No no no, he'd come up with these elaborate schemes you normally only see in cartoons. There was something about a wire in a necktie set to choke anyone who wore it, for example. That explains why he uses things like machine gun mounted robots at one point in the film. Using his elaborate schemes, he begins killing people who had nothing to do with the case, a grand plot that will eventually result on an attempt on the mayor's life. He says this isn't about vengeance and that he's doing this to accomplish the amorphous goal of, "bringing the whole system down." That's a load of crap, by the way. This is a plot of vengeance launched by a crazy man who tries to make the world as crazy as he is and, especially in Nick Price's case, succeeds.

A couple of surprises dud manage to up my appreciation level of the movie. For example, who is doing all the leg work involved in Shelton's murders if he's in prison? Normally in movies like this, there's an extra guy who doesn't serve much of a purpose except to eventually be revealed as a villain at the end of the movie. I thought I had Shelton's accomplice and their method of communication all figured out but I was wrong so good work on that, movie. Also, I didn't really see the ending coming. Don't want to spoil it but I will say that I've seen too many real life examples of what happens when you set aside the legal system's checks and balances and there are too many people who confuse fiction with reality and could see this as a manual on what to do with problem criminals. The good news is that these deep thoughts didn't enter my mind until after I left the theater so again, good work, movie.

Law Abiding Citizen isn't horrible by any means but it's not all that great either. It appeals to a more adult audience which means I didn't have to sit there while two girls in front of me texted each other about how cute the boy sitting in between them was or anything like that. The best summation I can give is this movie is better than no movie at all. Not exactly an endorsement that will get people running with all due haste to the nearest multiplex but it's the best you're gonna get.

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