Law Abiding Citizen is a 2009 thriller, starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler. Directed by F. Gary Gray, the movie was distributed by Overture Films.
Plot. Set in Philadelphia, the movie is the story of one man’s vengeance to the killer who murdered his family, and to the criminal justice system which freed the killer.
The movie begins with the tragedy in the home of an engineer named Clyde Shelton. Several persons invaded his home and raped and killed his wife and daughter before his eyes. During the trial, prosecutor Nick Rice informs Clyde that his case against the suspect, Clarence Darby, is weak due to botched forensic evidence and that Clyde’s testimony alone is insufficient to prove either suspect’s guilt. Due to the uncertainty of the case and with his desire to maintain his conviction rates, Nick strikes a deal with the suspect: Darby gives a testimony that will send his accomplice Rupert Ames to death row, and in exchange, Nick allows Darby to plead guilty to third-degree murder, for which he will only serve three years imprisonment. The plan is pushed through, leaving Clyde feeling betrayed by both Nick and the justice system.
Ten years later, Rupert suffers a slow death and agonizing death due to tampering in his lethal injection. Also, DVD of Clarence Darby being tortured to death and dismembered spread. Clyde is arrested for the murder who confesses to both crimes. All the those years, Clyde has studied the justice system and now in prison, he plays with them. He holds so much information and in exchange for them, he trades for some luxuries like soft mattress in prison, a grand meal, and his iPod. Failure to comply with his demands means death for many people involved, like the judge, a cellmate, and many members of the legal staff. It is Clyde’s ultimate revenge against the rotten justice system.
In the end, Nick discovers all his secrets – that he has dug a tunnel through his prison cell. Nick has outwitted Clyde who dies from his own plot. However, Clyde accomplishes his true mission – to teach Nick never to deal with murderers anymore.
Commentary. Law Abiding Citizen is a well-thought movie. It is one of those movies we cannot easily forget due to the simplicity of its plot and the complexity of the details that built the plot. Basically, it is the story of vengeance out of helplessness. But it is a well-calculated revenge, a series of tragedy planned for years. The victim has now become the hunter, and the prize is a painful and overwhelming lesson for the hunter and his victims.
Ironically, I cheered for the hunter, awed and wowed by him. I find it hard to condemn the man whose rage sprang out of sever grief and disappointment. Still, the end does not justify the means and in the last part, he once again becomes the victim, the sacrificial lamb to get the messages across.
Actor. Gerard Butler as Clyde Shelton is beyond excellence. He truly portrayed the grieving and avenging man. All throughout the film, he exuded an air of mystery and hunger. Jamie Foxx as Nick Rice also deserves high praises. His performance earned him a nomination for Outstanding Actor by the NAACP Image Awards.
Unforgettable scene. The simultaneous bombing of the cars of the legal staff would be the most unforgettable for me. I find that part overwhelmingly heart-breaking.
Reception. The movie premiered second on its opening weekend, behind Where the Wild Things Are. However, the movie received mostly negative reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 25% of critics gave it a positive review, with an average score of 4.4/10. Meanwhile, Metacritic gave it a rating of 34%.
Rating. Five stars for this great film.