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Law Abiding Citizen

Starz / Anchor Bay // R // February 16, 2010
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ryan Keefer | posted February 5, 2010 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

When I was watching Law Abiding Citizen, I couldn't help but think back to another movie which of all things, was Forgetting Sarah Marshall. In it, there's a scene where four characters are discussing a movie whose premise is laughable to the point where it avoids common sense. The trailers for Law Abiding Citizen at least got the premise part in there so you could make your own decision, but the movie couldn't be that bad, right?

Written by Kurt Wimmer (The Recruit) and directed by F. Gary Gray (The Negotiator), the citizen in question is Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler, RocknRolla), who is living a quiet life in the city with his wife and daughter. This life is shattered when one night, thieves enter his house and kill his family. He's distraught by this and rightfully so, but what angers him more is the almost cavalier attitude shown by Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx, The Kingdom), an attorney for the state who takes a plea deal for the crimes to get to the head of the operation, but also to presumably what would be a stellar trial record. If he smells a possible loss in court, he's normally likely to offer a plea instead. This angers Clyde to no end.

A decade has passed, and now Nick is an assistant District Attorney, with a much nicer house than before, and his wife and daughter continue to grow older and more beautiful. However, one of the people involved in the murder of Clyde's family is found dead, the victim of a gruesome murder. Clyde admits his involvement in the murder to Nick, but in the process of getting charged, Clyde shows his anger with the justice system. Clyde was almost going to be released on bail for the murder until he shows the judge just how silly the system can be. Clyde does what he can to make sure that Nick knows what he's trying to illustrate, and tells Nick that the people involved in letting those who got away with killing his family will pay the price, and Nick has to barter with Clyde to get clues as to how to solve their imminent murders.

Now the thing we don't know about Clyde, and it's something we don't know about him until late in the movie, he a government man, a guy who either has the experience (or is dramatically endowed by the script) to off people from far away. Small explosives (or bullets) are detonated when people pick up phones, people are buried alive, and others are given toxins that are injected into their systems when picking up a gun. Alternatively, the coup de grace, which is a small robot, on tracks with a large caliber weapon, shooting and blowing up things via remote control. The death while Clyde's in jail are also good, considering he's in jail and has apparently planned the disappearances and/or deaths of these people for months.

Yet for as silly as the premise of the movie is, and the fact that we're not allowed to pull the battery out of the phone (like in Sarah Marshall), I think that with a couple of tweaks here and there, Law Abiding Citizen could have been made more convincing. Considering in its current state, it's not entirely bad; what sells the idea of the film is the performance of Butler. I've got to admit he's come a long way since showing off his vocal and abdominal merits in 300; you feel for his pain and you're even with him as he begins his path of vengeance. You also begin to feel uneasy about how dark and obsessive the path gets, which provides the viewer the larger moral dilemma about the rights and wrongs of justifiable killing.

But as good as Butler is, Foxx is surprisingly the weaker link in the film. For a guy who's known for turning in quality performances in more serious films, he seems like he's willing to go with the flow and not provide any serious effort to his role as Nick. Instead of being the underrated dramatic force that he can be, in Law Abiding Citizen, his merits more fall along the lines of a guy who happened to win an Oscar just because he looked like Ray Charles. He served as the spokesman for this story's gaps, and didn't do anything to prove himself believable when discussing them.

Law Abiding Citizen was in capable hands; the acting talent was available and Gray has directed dramatic films with action sequences well in the past, but here, you can't get over the fact that what you're watching is a story being held together by bubble gum and tinfoil. With any luck, it will collapse under the weight of credibility. As it stands, you're left under whelmed and wondering whose idea it was to do something like this with a straight face.

The Blu-ray Disc:
The Video:

Anchor Bay drops Law Abiding Citizen with an AVC-encoded 2.40:1 widescreen presentation, in full 1080p high-definition for your eyes. The results are excellent; Gray takes the backdrop of Philadelphia and shows it off the best he can with the visual elements he wished to use, and there are many shots of the city that look good and possess some background depth. Blacks are consistent and reproduced well without noticeable crushing or other issues. Image detail is noticeable throughout the film and grain is present without being a distraction. Solid work by all involved.

The Sound:

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround option can certainly bring the goods when required of it. During the third act sequences where car bombs, explosions and bullet hits are prevalent, they resonate through the room and effectively pan the front channels, with the explosions providing a nice level of low-end activity to the soundtrack. But that's the last third of the movie. The first third does have a little bit of action but is mainly dialogue driven, and it's replicated accurately and without complaint. There is a little adjustment to be made, but that's more due to Foxx' lowering his voice to almost whisper level in some scenes. Otherwise, this is in good shape.

The Extras:

The film is on two discs; the theatrical cut is on the second disc while the extended director's cut is on disc one. Why the film versions and supplements couldn't have been put on one disc with seamless branching, I don't know. But the theatrical cut is the only one with a commentary, with producers Lucas Foster and Alan Siegel as the participants. Recorded while in the beginning of the film's theatrical run, the pair is pleased with their work, discussing any specific challenges on the production and problems securing locations. They talk about the cast and crew and share their thoughts on them, along with providing a story or two, but there's very little weight or meat to their stories, without one of the filmmakers involved on this track. It's nice, but hardly feels informative.

The remaining extras are all on the first disc, starting with "The Justice of Law Abiding Citizen" (6:15), which examines the rights, wrongs and legal ramifications of the film's protagonist with several attorneys. They mention an occasional real-life story or two, but the extra is pretty quick and sans real information. "Law in Black and White" (15:06) is the closest thing to a making-of featurette on the film, with Gray filming some of the on-set happenings, even a rehearsal or two. There's some "fly on the wall" perspective with Gray and Fox collaborating on a scene, and the cast shares their thought on the concept and characters they portray, along with their thoughts on one another. Different style, same result for this EPK. "Preliminary Arguments" are a series of visual effects breakdown and pass-through footage on five separate scenes (6:46), including some previsualization material. A "mash-up" trailer (1:05) and the theatrical trailer (2:26) are the only other real extras to speak of.

Final Thoughts:

Law Abiding Citizen starts with promise, but then it devolves into a trail of unintentional silliness and incredulity. When Gerard Butler is a better actor than Jamie Foxx in the same film, that probably says as much about both of them, and not in a good way. Technically the disc isn't bad, though it could have used a little more cast participation on the supplements to be a keeper. As it stands, give it a rental if you can leave your mind at the door for 110 minutes.

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