Tuesday, 26 January 2010
FILM REVIEW: LAW ABIDING CITIZEN
One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Or in the case of Law Abiding Citizen, one man's avenging angel is another man's sadistic prick. When Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) sees his wife and daughter murdered during a home invasion, only to have one of the perpetrators plea bargain for a lighter sentence by turning on the other who then gets life, we're immediately on his side.
Cut to ten years later, and Shelton has decided that revenge is a dish best served bloody, starting with the two killers. Fair enough. But it's not too long before the audience will find its allegiance with the aggrieved man wavering if not completely eviscerated as it soon becomes clear that the avenger may actually be a personality trait shy of a serial killer. Shelton starts picking off, one by one, all those involved with his family's case, including then district attorney Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) who made the plea bargain.
Present day Rice heads the prosecution case against Shelton when he is captured but even though he is imprisoned the murders continue to mount. How? Does Shelton have an accomplice? A copy cat? There may have been an interesting idea to begin with here – the failings of the law, taking justice into one's own hands – but Law Abiding Citizen quickly loses any novel appeal as the sadism, and the implausibilities, begin to mount.
At a stretch, F. Gary Gray's film could be enjoyed as a guilty pleasure, if you're so inclined. Despite its ultra violence and borderline xenopobia, I found Taken (2008), starring Liam Neeson as a father tearing through Paris in pursuit of his kidnapped daughter, to be a hoot. Not so Law Abiding Citizen. It attempts to be a legal/moral thriller with a torture porn aesthetic are less than successful. Eye an for an eye is one thing, but when you start with all the other body parts merely for the hell of it, there's no pleasure to be had.