Jamie Foxx is the upstanding assistant DA (of course!) at the mercy of avenging vigilante Gerard Butler, who is bent on revenge against the murderers of his wife and daughter and on the inadequate legal system. F. Gary Gray who made the lukewarm and not very Italian The Italian Job directs from a poor script by Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption) and Kurt Wimmer.
Butler produces and stars as Clyde Shelton in this warmed-over revenge thriller, part Death Wish, part The Jackal; none of that’s a compliment. Blood, bombs, bullets and expletives fly around the screen as Butler wreaks havoc on Philadelphia, who, despite the movie’s moral hand-wringing, takes a perverse delight in this revenger’s tragedy. Jamie Foxx, fresh from Oscar winning turn in Ray, followed up with this turkey, played strictly by the numbers.
After ten years plotting, Butler’s Shelton begins torturing and dismembering bad guys then turns on the legal system, including Foxx’s aspiring DA who brokered the plea bargain that let one murderer off on a light sentence. The serial killings of complacent officials continue even after Shelton is imprisoned, raising the suspicion of an accomplice.
But things turn tricksy, as Shelton is revealed as a CIA super-assassin, inventor and morally dubious character, at which point the whole ‘broken man gets payback’ tale turns out to be a fake and we’re into standard Hollywood hokum of guns, gadgets and clichés.
Butler is a scowling, grim schemer; Foxx a scowling, stiff, ambitious lawyer who neglects his family. It’s difficult to work out who we’re rooting for and why we should bother. The pair have no charisma or chemistry, they spit testosterone-laden dalogue at each other and you expect somebody to yell “you can’t handle the truth,” but frankly, Darabont, we don’t really care. The rest is as gruesome as a slasher movie and filled with cardboard cut-out characters, including Colm Meaney who gets to be non-specific Irish-American and do very little.
This was made as a cynical marketing exercise by all concerned. Avoid it. RC
Law Abiding Citizen (2009)
Director: F. Gary Gray
Writer: Kurt Wimmer, Frank Darabont
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Drama
Cast: Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx, Colm Meaney, Leslie Bibb, Bruce McGill, Michael Irby, Regina Hall, Viola Davis.
Running Time: 108 minutes