Home > Crime, Drama, Thriller > Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

Clyde Alexander Shelton has every reason to be committing these murders. The justice system let him down, striking a plea bargain with one of the men responsible for the rape and murder of his wife and daughter in exchange for testimony against his accomplice. He has every right to be angry with the perpetrators, as well as the lawyers and judiciaries who keep dying. He has to be behind them somehow, but this is impossible. Why? Shelton has been locked in solitary confinement the whole time.

Law Abiding Citizen is an American thriller written by Kurt Wimmer and directed by F. Gary Gray. It stars Jamie “Collateral” Foxx, Gerard “Tomorrow Never Dies” Butler, Christian “Prison Break” Stolte, Josh “The Collector” Stewart, Bruce “MacGyver” McGill, Colm “DS9” Meaney, and Viola “Antwone Fisher” Davis.

When Clyde Shelton (Butler) witnesses the brutal rape and murder of his wife and daughter, all he wants is for the perpetrators Clarence (Stolte) and Rupert (Stewart) to be brought to justice. However, prosecutor Nick Rice (Foxx) informs Clyde that the DNA evidence at the scene was ruled inadmissible due to botched forensics, and Clyde’s testimony is not considered strong enough to guarantee a conviction. Wanting to keep him 100% conviction rate, Nick strikes a deal with Clarence, allowing him to plead to third degree murder in exchange for testimony that will send his accomplice to death row. Since Clyde saw for himself that Clarence was the ringleader and directly responsible for the death of his family, the distraught widower is left feeling betrayed by the legal system he trusted to help him.

Ten years later, Rupert’s death by lethal injection turns into a horrifying affair; someone switched the drugs, leaving Rupert to die in agony. Suspicion falls on Clarence, only for Clyde to spirit him away, paralyze him with a neurotoxin, and dismember him with a circular saw. As the prime suspect, he is arrested, confesses to the two deaths in exchange for a mattress in his cell, and is sent to prison. It is not long after that he informs Nick of the impending deaths of a number of key players in the New York judicial system. He murders his cellmate and is thrown into solitary confinement… and outside the bodies keep piling up, as Nick races to stop these apparently impossible crimes…

I was intrigued by the premise of the “impossible crime”, a string of murders being committed by a man locked in a cell – a reverse locked-room mystery, in a way. The deaths are ingeniously planned and executed, and the level of planning that must have been involved would make Jigsaw himself tip his hat in respect. Clyde uses every resource he has available to enact his plan, just to make a statement about a broken legal system, and while it may seem extreme at times (seriously – sending the DVD of Clarence’s torture to Nick’s young daughter?! Seriously?!), Clyde has good reason to believe that this is the only way he would be heard.

Gerard Butler is excellent as the traumatized father and husband whose grief turns to ice-cold, calculating rage, and as more of his background is uncovered turns out to be the most badass family man ever. Jaime Foxx was also excellent as the prosecutor who is forced – in the most brutal lessons possible – to re-examine his own tendency to let “maybe” cases slide in favor of slam dunks. The interplay between Foxx and Butler are excellent – mind games within mind games, traps within puzzles with a chewy core of a single man pushed too far. You get the sense that Clyde was genuinely a good man trying to do the right thing, only to have the rug yanked out from under him at exactly the wrong moment. There are few innocents in the cast, though, and plenty of blame to go around for the failure that sets things off.

Law Abiding Citizen is an engaging, cerebral thriller with enough layers and twists to keep the viewer guessing. If you like engaging mysteries and thrilling revenge tales, by all means watch this movie, and get ready to be challenged.

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