Clyde Shelton seems to be a good devoted husband and father until violence enters his home and murders his wife and young daughter. The justice system fails him by entering into a plea bargain with the bad guys because up-and-coming District Attorney Nick Rice doesn’t think they have a strong enough case. He tells the grieving and frustrated father that some justice is better than no justice and that it all comes down to what you can prove.
Law Abiding Citizen opens quickly to the brutal attack of Clyde’s family. Gerard Butler is looking rounder and softer than he usually appears in those manly tough roles like 300 and Gamer. Clyde is the only witness as he fades in and out of consciousness watching his wife being raped and murdered and his daughter being carted off. Because he doesn’t actually see the murder, the prosecutor (played by Jamie Foxx) thinks the defense will argue this point. He’s got a 96% conviction rate and that seems to play into his need to close this with a compromise. One of the bad guys agrees to testify against the other in return for a reduced sentence. Of course, the one making the deal is the one who actually did the deed. This does not sit well with Clyde who takes 10 years to enact his revenge. The death and mayhem inflicted upon the cold-blooded robbers and key players in the justice system that brokered the deal are intense and exciting. All of this is balanced by the humor of Clyde’s demands while he pulls Nick’s strings, enticing him with confessions. How can a seemly incarcerated man create such revenge from jail?
Directed by F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job) and written by Kurt Wimmer (The Recruit), Citizen had gone through several changes before it landed in Gray’s hands. At one point, Frank Darabont revised the script and was set to direct. The result is a somewhat interesting mix of action, vengeance, and commentary on our justice system and it’s politically motivated results. It still felt somewhat bogged down.
Characters were not fleshed out, despite things like giving Nick a family that craves his attention over his job. He has yet to attend his daughter’s musical recitals. We know that Clyde is a loving dad wearing the bracelet that his daughter gave him the day she died. Giving Clyde a background as a CIA “brain” was the only way to explain the elaborate plans he puts in place to pay back what he feels is a bad decision. It’s the kind of movie that requires one not too think too hard on the big gaping plot holes. We want to root for Clyde as he turns the tables on Nick, but as the body count start to pile up there is only one way this movie can be resolved which makes the finale less than satisfying. What starts out as a decent concept, loses its juice when the two protagonists have their last showdown and the audience is asked to accept the consequences. (Review by Reesa Cruz-Hawkins)
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