Poll: IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! Law Abiding Citizen

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As a generally enlightened culture, we are fascinated by the concepts and procedures of justice. We debate what is in society's best interest, study those who act against that interest and determine ways in which those parties can be dealt with. It's the reason Law & Order is one of the longest-running shows on television. However, the lament of many an individual with a mind geared towards justice and perhaps even honor is that the system established by our culture is fraught with loopholes, caveats and legal prestedigitation that allows criminals to escape what might be considered their just rewards. Enter righteously motivated and occasionally unhinged vigilantes, from Batman to the Punisher, from Paul Benjamin to the Boondock Saints. While most of these heroes operate outside of the system, Law Abiding Citizen goes a step further by taking on the system itself.

Courtesy Overture Entertainment & Doctor Popcorn

Clyde Shelton is a tinkerer. He's making a quiet living with a few inventions with his wife and daughter when his home is invaded. Stabbed and forced to watch his family murdered, Clyde then sees months of time and millions of dollars trickle away as his lawyer, hotshot Nick Rice, brokers a deal with more vicious of the two attackers, Doyle, that sends the partner to Death Row while Doyle himself gets a slap on the wrist. Clyde is a little upset about this turn of events. Ten years later, a series of gruesome but highly coordinated events begin to take place, and it soon becomes clear that Clyde has a bone to pick with not just his attackers, but the system that let one of them walk away. It slowly becomes apparent just how dangerous Clyde really is, and Nick is the only person capable of figuring out Clyde's next move, provided Clyde isn't actually three moves ahead.

From the standpoint of composition and flow of story, there's really nothing objectionable about Law Abiding Citizen with one noteable exception. Kurt Wimmer, creator of the exceptional Equilibrium, is good at this sort of intelligent, vengeance-minded scripting. F Gary Gray's got good directing chops that give us clean scenes and realistic framing. None of the actors seemed to be phoning it in or gnawing overmuch on the scenery. There's nothing earth-shattering in any of these elements, but neither are any of them bad enough to warrant a mention. It's a character-driven movie, rather than being fueled by explosions and cleavage, so it was already winning points on that basis alone as it ran.

Courtesy Overture Entertainment & Poptower
A little something for the ladies.

One thing of note, and a big part of the appeal of the story, is just how insanely prepared Clyde seems to be for most of the movie. Take this as your obligatory spoiler warning before I actually get to discussing the end, but from the start of the film up until about the 90th minute, Clyde comes off as a diabolical mix of Hannibal Lecter and Hannibal Smith. He's intelligent, well-spoken, resourceful and very angry, yet he's polite when he needs to be and is careful to never tip his hand. It's like in handing the unrepentant Doyle a plea bargain, Nick Rice accidentally created a supervillain that Lex Luthor would love to have on his payroll if he wasn't worried about Clyde taking over the business. The extent and execution of his actions reaches that level of impressive deviousness.

The other thing that stood out from the very beginning is this movie's setting. Call me sentimental but I'm kind of in love with Philadelphia. Considering most of the tension comes from in and around City Hall, which is an exquisite stone building in the heart of a bustling modern metropolis, it was all sorts of eye candy for me. In addition, the prison scenes were shot in the old Eastern State Penitentary, commonly noted as a haunted attraction in these parts. Though I have to wonder what William Penn, the Quaker atop City Hall's clock tower looking down at most of the city's buildings, would make of all the explosions in his town.

Courtesy 49th Parallel
"Damn kids these days..."

Okay, last call for those wishing a spoiler-free experience to get out. I'm going to talk about the ending, now, and in retrospect it's kind of pissing me off. So for most of the movie, Clyde is the sort frighteningly prepared and thorough villain that you can't help but admire because the guy's thought of everything. Then he seems to forget things. Like for example, when he sets the bomb for the mayor and Philly's other top brass, why did he not include a motion sensor at the bottom of the case, activated after he leaves, so that it'd go off if it was moved? And why was his lair unprotected? When Nick and Chief O'Brien (yes, he had another name, and no, I don't feel like looking it up) break into the place, they flick switches, pull covers off of equipment, so on and so forth. There isn't one mine, no traps, not a single remote security measure, not even a tripwire! I was throwing up my hands in disgust! I mean, it's one thing for the villain protagonist to be so smug he gets hoisted by his own pitard, but this was just downright stupid!

In the end, Law Abiding Citizen kind of let me down. I was along for the ride and enjoying it, wondering who was going to die next and how. The realism of its setting and execution pulled me in, but when the ending took a turn for the idiotic it hurled me back out again. What started out as an interesting and entertaining introduction to the origins of a truly menacing and intelligent character became a major disappointment. I'm inclined to say queue it up but shut it off after the first hour and a half. You may be saying, "But I won't know how it ends!" My response is: Badly. Very, very, very badly. I don't mean in terms of what happens to the characters, I mean in terms of the last dozen pages of the script getting fed to an angry badger before the scenes get shot. It's mangled, abused, completely out of sync with the rest of the movie, kind of damp from drool and boy does it smell funny.

Josh Loomis can't always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it's unclear if this week's film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain... IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

But I like explosions and cleavage...

Very good as always!
I pretty much completely agree with you, honestly.
The story itself was interesting and I was hooked to see what would happen next, but the ending was just ridiculous.
Still, great review ^_^

And review the Dark Crystal next!! ^_^

Souplex:
But I like explosions and cleavage...

So do I, but it's a rare movie that works on those things alone.

I was interested in seeing this, though now I am not sure if I still am (though that has nothing to do with the spoilers).
An angry badger you say? If a badger got a hold of it there would be nothing left! Seriously, talk about a permanently pissed off animal!

but to get back on track well done. I hate when things start of looking like their are going to go great, and then they just completely derail.

I agree Blue, I love this movie, but the ending disappointed me it was to "easy" to switch the bomb and place it in the cell.

therandombear:
I agree Blue, I love this movie, but the ending disappointed me it was to "easy" to switch the bomb and place it in the cell.

Seriously. Tripwire on the case's latch, motion sensor, temperature gauge, anything.

I hated this film. I tend to hate it when the bad guy has this sort of omnipotence anyway, but this just took it too far.

Oh, and the entire investigation into this case was done by a freaking lawyer?! I mean, really? They don't have detectives in that world or something?!

After all his magic omnipotence throughout the rest of the film, the ending was just stupid. Didn't really feel it had any redeeming features - they even detained the SUSPECT in a maximum security prison on no charge; what the hell as up with that in the first place?! Can you really get away with that - just locking people up with serious criminals because they may have possibly had a motive for killing a recent murder victim? Fuck that :/

I remember finding this film sort of unremarkable. I felt it was trying to make some sort of point about the justice system, but that it just got sort of lost somewhere in the movie. I don't remember much about it, but I remember thinking that the film was just lurching from plot point to plot point in quite an eratic fashion, and that prevented me from getting too involved with what was happening.

BlueInkAlchemist:

therandombear:
I agree Blue, I love this movie, but the ending disappointed me it was to "easy" to switch the bomb and place it in the cell.

Seriously. Tripwire on the case's latch, motion sensor, temperature gauge, anything.

ye, I was expecting something, anything to happen when they looked inside the suitcase, a wire to blow it off when opened or something to make it go off early incase it was tampered with. It felt like they just made the ending on the last day of shooting or something, was so out of character from the rest of the movie.

Smartguy#1: Oh crap, we don't have money to shoot anymore of this film, but we don't have an end yet.
Smartguy#2: What if the get the villain to blow himself up with his own bomb? The lawyer find the bomb before he detonates it and for some reason got back to the prison much faster and placed it under his bed!
Smartguy#1: Genius!
Me: =/

I got the feeling that the end was a bit rushed. It seemed like there was a lot more that could have been done, Nick could have been forced to go through the Heavy Rain trials, or hell, Clyde could have won and realized it didn't do anything. Could have at least left the overdone message that vengeance only breeds destruction.

After watching this, I got to wondering what it would have been like if it was a book where they could have taken that time.

I too was severly dissapointed (to put it nicely) by how easily and rather unexplainably Clyde let himself get outwitted by Nick. The way the movie was going before it got to the WTF inducing ending I was honestly expectimh Clyde to arrange for one or both Nicks wife and daughter to die at his little girls recital or atleast for the final cu de gra that kills the citys big wigs to take him(either Nick or Clyde himself) out

I prefer this ending to the Book of Eli ending though. It's like great movies then pow, ruined.

Great movie until the end. The ending kills the whole movie. Much like Collateral, a retarded Jamie Foxx bests someone who is clearly better than them for no reason other than to end the movie and please the whiney bitches who hate awesome endings.

Fun review! Made wonder what some people are thinking when they write the script. No one will notice that we took an easy answer that doesn't match the character we have been building.

I mean what else would they be saying to me when they skip over key info just to make it an easy finish?

I loved this movie, actually for the reasons you put. He was so prepped to take on anyone and it was executed perfectly. It was quite creative what he actually did. The ending, I wouldn't say pissed me off, but was a major dissapointment. It felt too quick, almost rushed, which was a shame cause the rest of the movie was throughly enjoyably.

A good review and one I agree with. I still love this movie though even with the shite ending.

I love a good Xanatos Gambit movie, but like you I wasn't entirely happy with the ending. I think the writers had just written themselves in a corner. If the guy is so crazy prepared, how can he possibly lose? You have to make the protagonist more creative than the antagonist, not make the antagonist suddenly become stupid. On a side note, anyone else watching the the movie think

dragontiers:
I love a good Xanatos Gambit movie, but like you I wasn't entirely happy with the ending. I think the writers had just written themselves in a corner. If the guy is so crazy prepared, how can he possibly lose?

This was the big issue with the death note ending as well. Felt like a total cop out.

Basically, if a film/series/whatever decides to make their villain super intelligent and play Xanatos speed chess and pull it off all the time, at least have an end plan from the beginning.

I hate seeing good series go down this route all the time...

Anyways, great review as always. :)

I have to agree overall. Though I hated that ending, the smile Clyde gave when he was getting consumed in flames was just perfect to me.

LordOfInsanity:
I have to agree overall. Though I hated that ending, the smile Clyde gave when he was getting consumed in flames was just perfect to me.

I agree. It was cool to see a villain appreciating and accepting that the hero'd gotten one over on him, but it would have been better to see it happen by the hero being smart than the villain being stupid.

Not that we can really call either of them fully heroic or completely villainous given the film's somewhat gray morality...

BlueInkAlchemist:

therandombear:
I agree Blue, I love this movie, but the ending disappointed me it was to "easy" to switch the bomb and place it in the cell.

Seriously. Tripwire on the case's latch, motion sensor, temperature gauge, anything.

Hell, he could have pushed a button.

Huh, this is the first one of these I've checked out, gonna have to keep it up in the future.

I especially like that "Hannbal Lecter meets Hannibal Smith" bit. Very nicely done.

Oh, and I also hated the ending, but only because I thought a...well, spoilers obviously...tunnel wasn't very clever. I thought it would turn out that got a job as a janitor with a fake ID months earlier and kept changing identities to leave or something.

You know, something more clever then "He dug a tunnel."

I guess when one makes a character that powerful, one writes himself into a corner and makes it difficult to think up a good way to make it so that the whole movie isn't a one-sided victory for the powerful character. In this particular movie, that power was Gerard Butler's character's intelligence and preparedness, of course. Shame.

Unlike OP though, I wasn't really bothered by that until it was brought to my attention. I was too focused on this:

Frozen Donkey Wheel2:

Oh, and I also hated the ending, but only because I thought a...well, spoilers obviously...tunnel wasn't very clever.

Seriously! I was mostly enjoying the movie until that disappointing reveal.

I must agree, the ending was a dissapointment after an hour and a half of enjoyment. I like Gerard Butler and I like the movie. It was almost a slasher movie in that you knew they were mostly all going to be toast it was just a question of how. I think he should have won in a sought of Arlington Road style jaring ending.

The reflective feeling of the scene while the bomb went off was quite good.

You know, with the ending

Aside from that, spot on review, agreed with almost everything

BlueInkAlchemist:

therandombear:
I agree Blue, I love this movie, but the ending disappointed me it was to "easy" to switch the bomb and place it in the cell.

Seriously. Tripwire on the case's latch, motion sensor, temperature gauge, anything.

Not to make excuses for poor writing here, but could it be the character leaving room for himself to receive justice? ...Though, that kind of gets torn to shreds by the look of utter surprise on his face at the end.

I agree, I liked this movie a lot, and thought it fell apart at the end myself. Also when they came up with some of the reveals involved in the story, it raised so many "yeah but..." questions that made the entire premise dubious that I think it hurt the whole.

I also think that they were really struggling to make the bad guy the bad guy, so we could have Jamie Fox and his defense of the system be heroic, as opposed to the "bad guy" being the hero. Truthfully I think it would have had more bite if the "villain" wound up winning since a lot of the criticisms at the root of this movie are pretty accurate, the system as it exists now is simply a mess, not just on this level but a LOT of levels. It's similar to my take on school shootings, the acts themselves are bad, but at the time time you can't look at them intelligently without being critical of the system that causes them, and how it gets progressively worse as time goes on rather than adjusting to solve the problems.

spoilers below (hopefully working this time)

the main charter did't know, everything they had found out about him! he has no idea they knew he had been getting out of his cell, why would he need to booby trap anything when he still thought they thought they were trying to catch an accomplice.

tbh sounds like this film out smarted allot of you with the end and you didt really think about it. I agree with the reviewer on everything about his opinion apart from the end, which i will respectfully have to say is rubbish.

 

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