“Law Abiding Citizen” was heading toward a solid 4 out of 5 stars. The acting was enjoyable, and I dug the characters. The plot was sound, and well thought out. Then the third act happened. The ending (with a little help) cemented this as merely a mediocre movie, which ultimately will be forgotten, and a throw away for me.
The movie starts off in chaos, and did well to grab me. Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) loses his wife, and five year old daughter during a home invasion. The bad guys are caught quickly, but one (the worse of the two) cuts a deal which includes almost no jail time. Shelton questions his attorney Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), but doesn’t get the answers he wants. Naturally, Shelton becomes confused by the turn out, and begins to plot revenge.
We jump forward in time ten years. As the story progresses we see more, and more of Shelton’s revenge plan revealed. Systematically, he kills everyone involved with the botched trial that saw one of his family’s murderers walk almost entirely free. Shelton begins with making the execution of one of two murderers excruciatingly painful when it was supposed to painless, and humane. After this, he kidnaps the murderer who walked free after only a few years in jail.
From here, the deaths of those involved in the trial become very inventive and, dare I say, quite cool. But, more impressive is the deaths are accomplished without being too graphic or violent and bloody for the sake of violence and blood. Basically, the violence fits, and is appropriate. Where the movie takes a turn for the interesting is Shelton is caught, and jailed; yet people are still dropping dead. How? Does this guy have help? If so, who is it?
Where the movie began to lose me is Nick Rice’s involvement in every murder investigation. He’s a trial lawyer. His direct involvement in all the murder investigations with no explanation of why tripped up my liking of the movie, but that alone didn’t make it fall. What killed it for me was the ending, but I’ll get to that later. The whole movie we’re lead to believe someone is helping Shelton in his vendetta. We’re so obviously being misled that it turns into a charade. I was able to predict the outcome well before the end of the movie.
What would have been more inventive would have been to make the audience believe they’re being mislead, but then have it turn out the direction we’re being lead in is actually the movie’s true direction. I say this because again, the movie is so obviously misleading us that it becomes difficult to not predict the ending, and be spot-on from the get-go. If there had been some kind of extra twist maybe things would have turned out better.
As I said, the ending is what killed it for me. The whole movie we’re feeling natural sympathy toward Shelton, but at the same time we’re almost forced to make him the bad guy in the movie, and Rice the good guy. But really, this isn’t the case. In my eyes Shelton is the good guy, and I was rooting for him to succeed. But then the “Hollywood ending” takes hold, and is really upsetting. It makes the movie feel as if it’s a total waste of time. If the producers had kept on the path the story was quite clearly on, the ending could have been, as Shelton puts it, “biblical”. Instead, the movie lacks balls, and goes for the safe ending. Bad guys have to get their comeuppance even if they’re the good guys. It just didn’t work for me.
As I said above, ultimately this movie will be forgettable. A few minor changes could have turned this into a solid flick, but the ball got dropped. If there’s a spare night with nothing better to do, pop in the DVD, but there’s no need to cancel plans to see this.