Law Abiding Citizen posterRed lightJust who is the law abiding citizen in Law Abiding Citizen? Certainly not Gerard Butler aka Clyde Shelton, a pushed-over-the-line newborn psychopath who dedicates his existence to bloody revenge against all and sundry after the murderers of his wife and daughter get off with a lean sentence. And surely not Jamie Foxx, who plays state prosecutor Nick cut-em-a-deal Rice, the man responsible for letting one of the crooks off with an especially short jail stint. And even if that doesn’t technically constitute a crime, Foxx’s acting would be more than enough to swing the jury.

Ten years after the horrible murderous incident – which bizarrely arrives a moment after the audience are treated to the soothing sounds of The Byrd’s cover of Mr Tambourine Man – the Shelton family killers each suffer excruciatingly painful deaths. The cops, in a rare display of semi-intelligence, connect the pieces and throw Clyde in the slammer. Trouble is, he keeps on killing. And his kills get increasingly ludicrous as Be Cool director F. Gary Gray gets increasingly desperate to shape this trashy revenge thriller into something vaguely resembling entertainment.

The big question is: how is Shelton managing to cast his wrath while locked up in the slammer? The former family man is painted as an unfathomably brilliant criminal mastermind. One character even has the gall to say “if he’s in jail, it’s because he wants to be in jail…every move he makes means something.” But you can sense that something – and it’s not just the acting – isn’t quite right about this tawdry, lifeless who/how/why-dunnit. Sure enough the plot resolution is beyond dumb, beyond unfeasible. It’s not a matter of suspending disbelief; it’s a matter of chopping it into small pieces and shoving it into a hookah beforehand. That doesn’t in itself make Law Abiding Citizen a bad movie – but the hammy acting, cookie cutter characters and non-existent action scenes certainly don’t help either.

Law Abiding Citizen’s Australian theatrical release date: January 28, 2009.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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