Thursday, March 18, 2010
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN (2009). Director: F. Gary Gray.
A Philadelphia prosecutor, Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), has to give a deal to a loathsome creature, Clarence Darby (the wonderfully creepy Christian Stolter), who murdered a man's wife and daughter. Naturally this doesn't sit well with the man, Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler), who turns out not to be an ordinary citizen exactly. Ten years later, Rice is DA and Shelton is not only diabolically getting even with Darby (in a gruesome but satisfying sequence) but declaring war on Rice, the legal system, and virtually the entire city -- even after he's locked up in jail. This is one movie that has to be taken with a grain of salt. There's some dumb business with Rice bringing silver serving trays into prison to satisfy one of Shelton's demands [couldn't they put the food in bags, so as not to incite the jealous fury of the other inmates?], and the police hardly seem to be involved at all, a highly unlikely scenario. We won't even talk about the revelations at the end, fascinating as they are. Despite all that, Law Abiding Citizen becomes quite suspenseful and exciting as it nears its conclusion. There are clever moments -- inter-cutting a child's violin concert with a execution that goes awry -- and the ending is splendid. A big problem, however, is that the characters are one-dimensional, and it doesn't help that the two lead actors, although certainly not bad, give performances with insufficient intensity [given what's going on]. This is not a film in which an actor should underplay! Viola Davis is vivid in her brief scenes as the mayor, and Bruce McGill [Jonas] and other supporting players are on the money.
Verdict: Absurd but absorbing. ***.