On DVD: Law Abiding Citizen


There’s exploiting the criminal justice system and then there’s Clyde Shelton’s (Gerard Butler) exploiting of the criminal justice system, which involves killing everyone connected to it. Right and wrong is hardly black and white in any good movie and in “Law Abiding Citizen” it’s hardly a hundred shades of gray. Shelton is a man who lost is family and didn’t get the justice he thought he deserved in the prosecution of his family’s killers. Ten years later he not only gets his “justice” by killing both guys, but also when he’s taken to prison he begins to orchestrate a series of murders seemingly while in solitary confinement.

Shelton is a combination of the vengeful father character and The Joker — Heath Ledger’s Joker, that is. A series of carefully planned murders help him to try and make his point about the inherent flaws in the U.S criminal justice system while the attorney who wouldn’t take his case all the way (Jamie Foxx) tries to stop him knowing full well he could be next. “Citizen” is not a brilliant deconstruction of American law, but it exposes it impressively and manages to make that concept turn into an exciting thriller.

The harshest critics of “The Dark Knight” are liable to have the same problems with this film: plot holes. Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer, who wrote the Pierce Brosnan remake of “The Thomas Crown Affair” and the solid sci-fi dystopia film “Equilibrium” is experienced enough to make the film believable for most of the movie, but any film about a mad man concocting the most grandiose and precise murders and not failing is bound to produce skeptical viewers and rightfully so.

It’s an ambitious film, but in that sense and also in trying to be both entertaining thriller and social commentary, managing to succeed at one and come awfully close with the latter. The only reason the commentary falls short is because the action takes the film so far away from the original incident of Clyde’s family being killed and his first act of revenge that it sets up the conflict and the “what is justice?” themes better than it carries them out to their end.

Nevertheless “Citizen” is clever and at times brilliant. Butler and Foxx are credible talents and lend themselves to this film very well. Veterans Colm Meaney and Bruce McGill also round out the cast impressively and certainly director F. Gary Gray (“The Italian Job”) has his credentials. It gives a needed boost to Starz’ Overture Films, which aside from “Sunshine Cleaning” is a studio that hasn’t had much to hang its hat on just yet.

3.5/5 Stars

Law Abiding Citizen
Directed by F. Gary Gray
Written by Kurt Wimmer
Starring: Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx


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