Death be­comes him

Vengeance is a dish best served over­heated in this vi­o­lent thriller, writes Joe Grif­fin

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

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,

108 min

The no-mercy man: Ger­ard But­ler in Law Abid­ing Ci­ti­zen

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