Death becomes him
Vengeance is a dish best served overheated in this violent thriller, writes Joe Griffin
HOLLYWOOD HAS always had a mixed relationship with vigilantes. Although film-makers have romanticised unconventional heroes in the past, since 9/11 those who take the law into their own hands have been noticeably absent – unless, of, course, they’re wearing superhero tights.
Not that you’ll get any such discussions in the admirably eventful, gleefully dumb Law Abiding Citizen. It’s an oddball mishmash of such diverse influences as The Silence of the Lambs, Death Wish, Dexter and Looney Tunes.
Law-abiding Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) has the tragic misfortune of seeing his wife and young daughter killed in a random act of violence. Although the killers are caught and tried, one of them gets a lenient sentence, thanks to a deal cut by ambitious prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx).
Years later, Shelton confesses to a revenge killing and is promptly incarcerated. But he seems unencumbered by the confines of a prison cell, and his list of enemies continues to drop dead, apparently thanks to a collaborator on the outside and an array of remotecontrolled traps that seem to come from the crate of Wile E Coyote (the exploding cell phone is pure ACME). With employees of the justice system on Shelton’s hit list, Rice has little time to outsmart this new nemesis.
Although this battle of wits and wills has the potential to be both a morality play and an urban thriller, director F Gary Gray (The Negotiator) is more interested in blowing stuff up than in moral chin-stroking, and the courtroom scenes have more in common with Duck Soup than To Kill a Mocking Bird. But Butler’s scenery-chewing performance is fun, and Jamie Foxx, all toothy charisma and sharp suits, is as engaging as ever. It’s an efficiently paced, stylish film.
Whether the above compensates for the yawning plot holes and cheesy dialogue is a matter of personal taste, but for this film you’d be best advised to ignore its flaws and embrace its outrageousness. Cautiously recommended.
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN Directed by F. Gary Gray. Starring Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx, Bruce McGill, Colm Meaney, Regina Hall, Viola Davis 16 cert, gen release,
The no-mercy man: Gerard Butler in Law Abiding Citizen