— by MARIUSZ ZUBROWSKI —
Justice is a touchy subject and thus is prone to discussion, but unlike this summers “District 9,” which was a successful social commentary on the topic of discrimination, F. Gary Gray’s new film “Law Abiding Citizen” fails to deliver the same blend of wit and action for the subject of the judicial system.
This failure is mostly due to subpar performances by the two-big name leads, namely Jamie Foxx, who showcased his talent in films such as “Ray,” but seems to have left that spark elsewhere.
In the film, Clyde Shelton (Butler) watches the brutal assault on his wife and child during a home invasion. During their trial, one of the thieves testifies against the other in exchange for a reduced sentence to which Nick Rice (Foxx) agrees upon without Shelton’s consent, due to the case’s evidence not being “airtight.”
Fast-forward 10 years and one of the crooks is about to die of a “painless” lethal injection, while his accomplish, the one who testified against him, is already released. And Shelton is seeking vengeance for his wife and daughter.
In the spirit of “Saw,” Clyde botches the lethal injection to make it a bit less painless, and traps the other low-life in a secluded warehouse where the hooks him up to a elaborate torture device.
“He’s seen better days” proclaims the detective examining the scene after a gruesome torture sequence, which had me recoiled in my seat. Shelton is arrested and this begins the game of cat and mouse between Rich — the successful lawyer with a 97 percent conviction rate, but who failed to get both murderers life sentences — and his former client — who self-educated himself in law and plotted the murders of the two criminals “over and over” in his head over the past 10 years in a sick attempt to get revenge.
Clyde is bent on bringing down the justice system that had failed him and plans on doing so by killing off anyone who was involved in his case, except Rice, who is forced to bargain with their lives in exchange for anything Clyde wants, which ranges from a bed for his cell to ultimately freedom.
The film tries to mix intelligence and wit, but fails to do so properly. The message of a failed justice system is too “in your face” with characters spouting words like “justice” every scene. The over-reliance of unnecessary violence also weight down the film’s “serious” tone.
Jamie Foxx brings his B-game in his follow-up to “The Soloist” (in which he was magnificent). Butler, however, shows an improvement after the dreadful “Gamer” and adds more of a human feel to the “Jigsaw-complex” that his character has. It still doesn’t feel like it was a taste of his true potential though.
“Law Abiding Citizen” is not the worst or most boring movie in the world, but it is simply average. Absolutely nothing, from the actors to the plot, stand out and thus make it an instantly forgettable experience.
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