Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Law Abiding Citizen</strong> (2009)

(In theatres, October 2009) There’s been a curious lack of straight-up thrillers in theatres recently, but it’s not overcooked, under-thought efforts like this one that are going to revive interest in the genre. Nominally the story of a grieving father whose vengeance efforts against a pragmatic DA become excessive, Law Abiding Citizen never manages to convince us of the superiority of the hero against the villain. Gerald Butler’s scary-smart vigilante is so compelling (especially alongside Jamie Foxx’s dull protagonist) that we never completely stop rooting for whatever he’s doing. The ending feels like a defeat at the hands of an undeserving hero, and a particularly dumb one at that: No one in their right mind would take the chances leading to the final detonation. But then again, much of Law Abiding Citizen is preposterous to begin with, what with an omniscient villain, nick-of-time plans, unbelievable contrivances and more Hollywood conveniences than you’d believe. What’s worse, perhaps, is that Kurt Wimmer’s script is not without a few good moments (the “cell phone scene” is a pure shocker; Philadelphia is fine; the ramifications of the villain’s day-job are worth a film in themselves) while Gary F. Gray’s direction makes a generous use of pans, helicopters, smooth transitions and crane-mounted cameras. There’s a sheer anarchistic glee in seeing a city’s judicial system being taken apart for pure vengeance, so you can imagine the disappointment when it all fails to cohere in anything better than an average pot-boiler thriller. This is one of those films where the trailer is quite a bit better than the actual film, and not just because hero and villains are so obviously mismatched.

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