Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Absurd "Law Abiding Citizen" trashy guilty pleasure

Law Abiding Citizen (2009) 
108 min., rated R.
Grade: C +

"Law Abiding Citizen" is not only one of those "Death Wish" formula revenge-thrillers that ham-fistedly speechifies how vigilantism is acceptable and our legal system corrupt, but it's also "Saw"-lite. 

Mush-mouthed Gerard Butler, talking out the side of his mouth to quell his Scottish drawl, stars as Clyde Shelton, a brainish inventor who experiences a home invasion. Not even two minutes in, he answers the door expecting take-out but instead getting a bat to the head and held down to helplessly watch his wife and young daughter be murdered. Ten years later, he's out for blood, but not just the killer who got off free after testifying against his accomplice but against the entire judicial system. Enter cocksure Philly prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), who was too soft in cutting a deal with the killer. Clyde is in Charles Bronson mode with the Jigsaw killer's Rube Goldberg traps, turning his vengeance into a game: he somehow takes out the whole system from inside solitary confinement. So does the not-to-be-messed-with bad mutha have an ally on the outside or is he just a superhuman genius? 

F. Gary Gray's dutifully ludicrous movie never loses your interest, but you never know who to root for in Kurt Wimmer's script, so you just put your hands up, scrap all the legal/moral commentary bullcrap, set aside all of your suspension of disbelief, and go along with the plot-holey absurdity of the ride. One scene is completely reminiscent of "The Silence of the Lambs," when Clyde demands a better bed, a fancy dinner, and an iPod from Nick and the warden, and there's one abrupt, surprising shock, involving a cell phone and a mouthy judge, that'll send its audience out of their seats. 

It's trash—slick, sadistic, hypocritcal trash, but much of it guiltily entertaining in a take-the-law-into-your-own-hands-and-kill-'em-all kind of way, of course. 

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