Law Abiding Citizen

October, 2009, Thriller

Directed by:F. Gary Gray

Starring:Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx, Leslie Bibb, Colm Meaney, Viola Davis, and Bruce McGill




Jamie Foxx is an Oscar-winning African American actor who clearly has his choice of material…so what is he doing in this inane blood fest which should have gone straight to release in video stores? In the hands of veteran director F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job) Foxx and a number of other competent film actors (Gerard Butler, Colin Meaney, Bruce McGill) lurch through a storyline so incredible that what begins as a Saw-type slasher movie winds up an unintentional comedy. Everyone involved should have their cinematic heads examined…


Foxx plays Philadelphia assistant district attorney Nick Rice, a career- obsessed prosecuting attorney jealously guarding an exceptionally high conviction rate. When he plea-bargains a light sentence for one of two career criminals charged with the robbery, rape and murder of Clyde Shelton’s wife and young daughter, the husband/father (Gerard Butler) retreats into a near catatonic state from which he emerges a decade later to declare war on everyone involved in what he sees - - not surprisingly - -  as a gross miscarriage of justice. He first eliminates, in gory fashion, the two perpetrators - - then sets his sights on defense council, nearly everyone in the D.A.’s office, the judge and finally Rice himself, who’s being hectored by the major to stop the carnage. The plot’s “hook” is supposed to revolve around discovery of how Shelton’s able to inflict such devastation while locked up in solitary confinement- - but the gimmick involved is so extraordinarily stupid it generates derisive laughter rather than anything remotely suspenseful.


Foxx is dreadfully miscast in the lead, the other black cast members are given so little to do they appear amateurish and the script, by veteran screenwriter Kurt Wimmer, (Street Kings, The Recruit) is pure mediocrity; peppered with clichés, sloppy exposition and the kind of one-dimensional characters that give so many network television crime shows a thoroughly-deserved bad name. Meaney and McGill labor to turn their roles into something other than complete nonsense and Butler has an initial moment or two of genuine anguished credibility as the aggrieved victim, but it’s Christian Stolte, as the completely degenerate murderer-rapist inexplicably given a reduced sentence who turns in the movie’s only interesting performance - - and he’s not on camera long enough to salvage the movie.


The moral question posed by revenge is a legitimate subject for dramatic presentation, Philadelphia serves as a decent location for Citizen’s action and cinematographer Jonathan Sela provides some intriguing camera angles which occasionally heighten the visual tension in the action sequences, but the rest is a hack job from beginning to end.



The Verdict? This one’s such a dog if given the chance, it would bark.



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