“Law Abiding Citizen”: Underrated

Alexander Kohnstamm

October and November are usually slow months for new films. This usual slowness has caused “Law Abiding Citizen” to fly completely under the radar at the moment. But, ignoring its seemingly unoriginal plot and massive pile of negative reviews, this is a film that is actually highly entertaining, and it is one that is dangerously close to being a classic revenge flick.
A man’s home is invaded and robbed, and his wife and daughter are murdered in front of him. But when the pair of killers is arrested, one makes a deal with the prosecutor to get off easy, while the other goes to death row. This does not sit well with the father, played by Gerard Butler, and he spends the next 10 years plotting the world’s most elaborate revenge scheme against the criminals, the prosecutor, played by Jamie Foxx, and all the other court officials and government appointees involved.
This plot turn makes this action thriller quite a pleasant surprise. It was nice to see F. Gary Gray, director of “The Italian Job,” teaming up with Butler; this teaming really gave the film an extra kick. Although the writing was a bit sour at times, it was rather refreshing to see a bit of brutality back on screen again, and wrapped in a rather clever package nonetheless.
After his fantastic role in the film “Gamer,” Butler delivers again in the lead role. His character, Clyde Shelton, is a masterfully complex character. You feel the pain of his loss when his family is murdered, and you are reborn with him in his newfound quest for vengeance.
The main problem this film faces is that it does not seem to realize that it has inadvertently painted Shelton as the hero, rather than the villain. The film assumes we will identify with Jamie Foxx’s character as he tries to stop this “madman” from killing “innocent” people. But no, you want Butler’s character to see his plan to fruition; you want him to destroy the establishment and kill everyone on screen – especially Jamie Foxx – to avenge his dead daughter and wife.
Another downside to this film is its lackluster ending. It’s a real shame to leave the film on such a sour and melancholy note after investing so much time into the trajectory of a brilliantly planned and seemingly justified revenge plot.
“Law Abiding Citizen” has the elaborate jigsaw puzzle scheming of “Inside Man” with the scorned parent mayhem of “Taken,” all of which add up to a very nice package, which is only spoiled by some stale icing on the cake.
But the bad ending does not mean the majority of the movie is not worthwhile, as it is far more entertaining than many other films are that are out now in theaters. If you want to take anything away from this review, it should be that critics these days are not the people you should be listening to – just use common sense. If it seems like a movie that you’d be interested in, give it a shot, and I guarantee you’ll have a good time.