Friday, 11 December 2009

Law Abiding Citizen: movie review

I was worried about this movie. Worried because I thought I'd miss it while I was on holiday. Worried because the trailer implies a really nasty torture scene, and I can't cope with torture scenes in movies. Violence yes: torture no.

Luckily neither of my fears came true. Despite a slew of  reviews claiming that "nothing is left to the imagination", they don't show the torture. At least not in the version I saw, which makes me think reviewers must make stuff up out of their asses - or maybe it was a completely different cut everywhere else in the world. The torture is gleefully described by the perpetrator in advance, and you do see the corpse afterwards (at some distance) but THEY DON'T SHOW ANYTHING, which is what matters to me. (There is at least one spectacularly bloody murder later on, btw, but it's so fast it doesn't count as torture.)

Anyway, the plot: This film starts as a courtroom drama and turns into a revenge thriller with a theme of Law versus Justice. Extremely punitive justice...

Clyde Shelton (Butler) is stabbed and sees his wife and daughter killed when burglers invade his home. The perps are arrested but the forensic evidence is ruled inadmissable due to police foulup and the prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) cuts a deal: the (less culpable) burgler gets the death penalty and the worse one gets a few years in prison after turning state witness. Rice does this rather than risk a trial because he doesn't want to ruin his 96% sucess rate at prosecution. Shelton is betrayed and furious. Cut to 10 years later when Shelton's slow-matured and very elaborate plans for revenge come to fruition, and both burglers die horrible deaths. Shelton is arrested. But then the others involved start dying: the judge, the defence council, the junior lawyers. How is Shelton carrying out the murders from inside prison? And since Rice is clearly being saved up for last, how can he stop Shelton, short of commiting murder himself?

I've got to say,  I enjoyed the film, and not just because of the totally gratuitous strip scene (Huzzah!). It's shallow as a puddle really, with only one message ("Don't compromise with evil") but the fact that the anti-hero is a smart bloke outwitting the "hero" keeps you interested. There's never going to be a happy ending - although you are clearly supposed to sympathise with Shelton (if not his methods), he is already damned and living in his own hell; there can't be any redemption for him except death. It's just a question  of whether Rice is redeemed or killed.

I was a bit disappointed he got off the hook.

Sadly, once Shelton's secrets are revealed the film flags a bit - at the climax he is about to blow up the mayor, the police chiefs and legal bigwigs at once, in a final blow against the corrupt justice system that failed his family. I really couldn't bring myself  to feel even slightly anxious on behalf of that lot.

But it was a fun ride that far. Don't watch it if the sight of blood scares you.



Chris said...

Gerard Butler starring in it wouldn't have anything to do with the positive review would it?

Janine Ashbless said...

No, nothing at all. Absolutely. You doubt my integrity, Chris?

Lucy Felthouse said...

I watched this movie at the weekend - I thought it was very good. Very cleverly done with a few bits and pieces which I didn't see coming.

And of course I wasn't complaining about the strip scene - it was the best part! ;)

Janine Ashbless said...

It's about time we got some gratuitous male eye-candy in movies, along with all the female stuff!