Monday, October 26, 2009

"Law Abiding Citizen"

Law Abiding Citizen - Directed by F. Gary Gray, starring Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx, and Bruce McGill - Rated R

Kind of ridiculous and implausible, but hey, so is the Evil Kurgan, and he's pretty entertaining.

Law Abiding Citizen is a fun movie. Is it stupid? You bet. Is it completely implausible? Oh yeah. Does Gerard Butler lapse back to his Scottish accent at times? Yup. But is it also awesome? It certainly is. This movie has enough great moments to make me forget that most of it makes no sense.

The story is straightforward enough, it just gets more and more ridiculous as time goes on. It all starts when Clyde Shelton (Butler) answers the door at home one night. Two robbers burst in and eventually kill his wife and daughter. Enter Nick Rice (Foxx), an up and coming prosecutor. He decides to give one of the robbers a plea bargain while the other one gets the death penalty. This doesn't sit well with Clyde, so he bides his time (he waits ten years to be exact) and unleashes the most intricate and implausible revenge plot in recent memory.

Clyde starts off simply by going after the two murderers. In a Saw type scene he explains what he is going to do to one murderer in gleeful detail. This is what Gerard Butler is meant to do. Enough with the romantic comedies; he needs to explain how he's going to deal out death with a smile on his face in every single movie he is in. That's why I can excuse his occasional accent lapse. He honestly seems to enjoy himself in films like this and 300.

After the two murderers are dealt with, Clyde allows himself to be taken's Nick's turn. But with Nick the lesson is going to be lengthy. Clyde looks at Nick and sees everything wrong with the justice system. So he can't simply kill everyone all at once. He needs to prove that this deal making system is broken. Clyde proves this by setting up some unlikely scenarios (how could he plan things out to exact times and how did he know what prison he would go...stuff like that) and demanding strange things. But it works and it's funny. I couldn't help but laugh a bit when he described the mattress he wanted in his cell in exchange for a confession. Or the steak dinner and iPod request in exchange for the location of a kidnapped lawyer. (More on that steak dinner later.)

Once Clyde is locked up, the story gets farther and farther out there. Apparently Clyde is capable of turning anything into a weapon and he's had ten years to perfect his art. Some of his inventions are quite ridiculous, but they're also kind of cool. I'll just leave it at that because a few of them lead to a shock or two and I don't want to deprive anyone of that.

That's enough for the story. I haven't really mentioned any other performance in the film other than Butler's but no one else really stands out. Foxx is okay, I just don't care for him as an actor. Though I will say that Foxx and Butler work well together; their interrogation scenes were entertaining. The supporting cast is strong, but no one has a character to work with.

What makes this movie stand out and what makes it enjoyable (or at least makes it a guilty pleasure) is its statement regarding the American court system. Clyde believes in a black and white/right and wrong world. There should be no bail hearings for suspicious people. There should be no plea deals. There should only be strict and swift punishment for your crimes. As faulty as this logic may sound, it always appeals to me on the screen. I know that our justice system is what it is and while it might be unfair at times, it certainly isn't broken. But when I read the arrest section and I see different bail amounts for the same crime or I hear about a murderer pleading down to a lesser charge I always get a little angry. Clyde, however, gets really angry. But the audience is with him; his wife and daughter were killed right in front of him. Is he justified? Maybe, maybe not. I was on his side, though, even though the film tries to sympathize with Jamie Foxx more than Butler. If someone is going to try and take down the justice system in real life, I wouldn't support it, but if they're trying to bring it down, literally, in a movie, then why not? If you're going to rope people in with such a premise, then you might as well go all the way with it. I though Law Abiding Citizen stopped a bit too short. It was still a hell of a ride, though.

*I haven't done this for awhile, but I have to talk about a few SPOILERS for this one.

I mentioned Gerard Butler requesting a steak dinner with an iPod accompaniment in prison. That might sound like an amusing little scene but it's actually one of the most hardcore scenes I've seen recently and it also plays on an action movie cliché in a very clever way. Let me describe the scene in detail: Butler gets his steak dinner and commences to eating it in front of an angry cellmate. He lets the cellmate join him and it seems like he's trying to make a friend out of the guy. They finish off the meal and Butler grabs the bone from the finished steak and clinches it on the sly. He moves behind the cellmate and gets him to try and find a song on the iPod via the remote. Just as the cellmate changes the song to a heavy metal track, Butler stabs him in the throat multiple times. "Stab" is too light of a word, though. It's more of a crazy punch-stab...with a steak bone. And the camera doesn't cut away. It's a shockingly brutal scene. Is there a reason why the violence was so amped up for that scene and not for the others? Maybe. The violence works. At a time when the movie was becoming borderline comedic I was jolted back into a serious movie. Even if there was no point to it, it certainly stuck with me. Years from now, I might forget the plot of Law Abiding Citizen, but something tells me I'll be able to describe the steak bone stab scene (that's what I've started calling it) for many years to come.

The action movie cliché I mentioned comes into play with the use of the heavy metal track on the iPod. Usually, in a film like this, a rock song kicks in (a Deftones song called "Engine No. 9") just as the violence amps up. But when that music kicks in its from the soundtrack. The filmmakers here found a way to make the music diegetic. I found this to be a stroke of genius (a small stroke, but a stroke nonetheless). I've always enjoyed interesting uses of music in film and that moment stood out for me. What can I say, I'm easily impressed when it comes to movie music.

1 comment:

  1. One critic said that this role wasn't challenging enough for Foxx and that him being in this film was "slumming it". I guess his role in Booty Call was Shakespearean! Also his performance in The Players Club brought me to tears. The guy does a good IMPRESSION of Ali & Ray Charles and all of a sudden he is Denzel?