Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Law Abiding Citizen


Review by Patrick Hodges

It’s easy to root for the victim, the underdog, the David against whatever Goliath he is facing.  However, at what point do you stop rooting for such a person and start rooting against him?  Such was my dilemma when watching this film.

During a particularly brutal home invasion, inventor Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is beaten and stabbed, and his wife and young daughter are murdered.  Almost immediately, we jump to several years later, when the trail of the two men responsible is nearly concluded, and ADA Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) is telling Shelton that a deal has been struck; the worse of the two offenders has agreed to a minimum sentence in order to roll on his partner, who will be sent to Death Row.  Shelton is outraged, of course, but the deal is already done.

Cut once again to ten years later; the execution of the sentenced offender goes horribly wrong, and the other offender is found is many different pieces, and Rice immediately knows who is responsible: Shelton.  But after his arrest, somehow, the killings continue, and everyone Shelton has deemed responsible for his miscarriage of justice, including lawyers, city officials, and other representatives of the entire “corrupt judicial system” is at risk.  Like I said earlier, it’s easy to root for an everyman when he is avenging his loved ones against a callous, unfeeling enemy, even if the brutality with which said revenge is achieved is almost stomach-turning. 

If the film has a point to make, it’s that the system is imperfect.  Lady justice is often blind, and sometimes the outcome is not always the right one.  Jamie Foxx does a good job playing the face of said system – both its good points and its bad - to the extent that we are never really meant to see him as the villain.  And when he realizes that Shelton is much smarter than everyone else in the game put together, his resolve is tested like never before.

The tagline for this movie reads “A man who loses everything is capable of anything”.  This may indeed be true.  And unfettered grief can make people do terrible things.  But there are some lines that shouldn’t be crossed, ever.  A when it is, it can be a terrible thing to behold.

Law Abiding Citizen is a very exciting, well-acted thriller.  It’s not the easiest to watch, but it will make you think about your own limitations, and what you might do if you were pushed so perilously close to the edge.

3 ½ / 5 stars

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