Sunday, February 19, 2012

Law Abiding Citizen

If I can summarize this movie in three words: brutal thrilling action.

The story tells us about a man, Clyde Shelton, played by Gerald Butler, whose wife and daughter are killed before his eyes (that scene is actually the most brutal and sickening to me). The killers get caught, but one of the killers strikes a deal and gets a minimum sentence. 10 years later Clyde goes on a roaring rampage of revenge, targeting everyone who he thinks has any responsibility in the matter, ranging from the killers to the district attorney, and especially his former lawyer, Nick Rice, played by Jamie Foxx.

Even though Clyde himself strongly denies that revenge is his motive, I seriously doubt there was any other real motive. He claims to accuse the legal system of being extremely flawed, letting gruesome murderers go free by striking “deals”, and to prove his point, he murders people gruesomely. Besides the fact that there are probably a lot more efficient ways to "expose" the system, does he really has to kill all those people, and go about it so brutally? Is it just for the sake of brutality? I mean, that seems like double standards in measuring morality to me. 

That sort of contradictions in the moral values and other beliefs of Clyde returns several times during the movie (e.g. he lets his family “watch” while he kills someone, by hanging up a photograph of them, but later claims that his family can’t feel anything, because they’re dead). For me, that was a bit of a letdown. Of course you could say that he really is just a nutter without any moral standards, but I don’t think that was what the director intended.

Other than that, it was a pretty decent and thrilling action movie. There were several unexpected turns and surprises, mixed with some nicely thought-out mystery. The writer, Kurt Wimmer, does use that sort of mystery often (e.g. Salt, Equilibrium,…). And don’t get me wrong: the brutality actually makes the whole a lot more terrifying (in a good way). Because of the way Clyde handles things, you can’t really call him the “good guy”. The viewer is still free to make up his or her own mind about who is wrong or right here. Not bad sir, not bad.

About the acting, I don’t really have anything good or bad to say. Both Butler and Foxx performed quite well, but apart from the first scene, not really mind-blowing. To me, the best performance in the movie was that of Viola Davis, playing as the mayor. I could really see the masked distress and fear in her way of handling the situation.

To summarize: An unusual, brutal action movie definitely worth watching, if you don’t try to scrutinize the movie in every detail.

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