Sunday, October 9, 2011

Law Abiding Citizen

By Sati. Sunday, October 9, 2011 , , , , , , ,
(109 min, 2009)
Plot: A frustrated man decides to take justice into his own hands after a plea bargain sets one of his family's killers free. He targets not only the killer but also the district attorney and others involved in the deal.
F. Gary Gray
Writer: Kurt Wimmer
Stars: Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx and Leslie Bibb

Seeking justice.
I really wanted to see this movie because of the extremely mixed opinions about it – the public seems to like it, the critics, with the exception of 3 on metacritic, hated it. I don't really like vigilante justice movies, but this one was actually quite strong and for the first time in weeks I saw the entire film in one sitting.

Here is the story of a man, Clyde, who witnesses the murder of his wife and little daughter and because of the legal system the man who did that only gets 3 years in prison. After 10 years Clyde starts his revenge taking down everyone who harmed his family and were responsible for the lack of justice.

The movie has moments of greatness – it is very entertaining, filled with suspense and tension. You side with Clyde immediately, even after you find out he was constructing deadly inventions for a living. But imagine the event he went through – seeing his little girl, his flesh and bones, killed, seeing his bellowed wife raped and slaughtered in front of him. I think most of the people will sympathize with Clyde when he kills the murderers – one of them is being chopped to pieces while he is still conscious, even so – what would you to the rapist of your wife and the murder of your daughter? But then Clyde goes after everyone – he leaves murderer's attorney to die buried alive, he kills people in the district attorney's office, even the sweet assistant. Did those people deserve to die? No. In many cases they had no influence on the trial and the sentence. Even the judge – she was just doing her job, maybe I can understand her death, given that it was her decision how much did the criminals get, but murderer's attorney? Everyone has the right to defend themselves in the court of law. That's everyone's right, one of the basics written in Constitution. But even if Clyde's actions were awful and he killed a lot of yes, indeed, innocent people, I can understand it. 10 years of the anger, the unbearable feeling of loss and pain was cooking up in this man. How sane can he be? How many cases are there like this? When is the justice actually served by the court of law? Is few years of prison enough for a murder and a rapist? No, of course not.

As much as I want to praise the movie for complex characters and moral questions, the screenplay is filled with plot holes – Clyde is supposedly brilliant engineer, most likely working for dangerous men, yet he opens the door so carelessly at the beginning? No security? He builds huge tunnel under the prison and nobody notices that? And why doesn't he kill Nick, attorney who made a deal with the murderer?

And another problem – in the end we are supposed to believe Clyde's goal wasn't just revenge but teaching Nick a lesson – not making deal with murderers, putting them in prison, serving justice. Well in that case he failed – Nick is a terrible character – he is weak, he has no respect for law (“fuck civil rights!”), for his colleagues, for his own family. In the end of the movie he commits murder – yes on, in the face of law, criminal – but still he is not held accountable for this. He just keeps on going. Despicable. His character, from what I read, was supposed to be a protagonist? Well, I sided with Clyde and had no sympathy for Nick. The movie lost a lot of points for the ridiculous ending.

The film also seems to be a bit chopped, which probably happened in the post production. Take the character of Chester – he is supposedly the guy the girl who works with Nick knows. He helps them out via phone and e-mail. Yet his identity is never revealed. Yes, it is quite possible in the end that there was no Chester and that was just Clyde's alias, but still in the action/thriller movie which tries to explain a lot, something like that being left out without explanation was bizarre. Why would Clyde provide them information which would help in stopping him? After all he was determined in gong through with his plan and I don't think he intended to die. It doesn't make any sense to me. And if Chester existed? Why make him such a secret?

What I'm surprised is that people who say how stupid some scenes are are missing the point – Clyde takes off his clothes when police comes to apprehend him not (only) because the director wanted to show Butler's butt but because Clyde had to show he was unarmed. As for him having elaborate legal knowledge – the man had 10 years to plan this. During his first investigation when he answers Nick's questions, even me, a second year law student, knew that Nick had no case. No wonder the dude who had 10 years to learn knew that too. What is stupid is that attorney didn't.

The acting is actually quite decent. I don't find Gerard Burtler particularly handsome (which is odd, since I find many actors hot and he is very masculine, dark hair – my type) or interesting but he really rocked that part. I don't know why he is wasting himself on silly comedies with TV starlets. He was intense, driven and yet even though he is cold blooded murderer the audience sympathizes with him. Jamie Foxx, on the other hand is one of the worst actors around and one of the biggest mistakes the Academy ever made, and there is a heavy competition. He was awful in “The Soloist” and here he is only slightly better than terrible. I think his character was supposed to gain audience's sympathy but Foxx is so extremely unlikeable, in the end I was mad he was alive. His character is weak, seems to be corrupt and totally misinterpreting the words like “law”, “constitution”, “rights” which is the worst thing a prosecutor can do. Had they hired good actor I think the outcome would be different.

Because of the ending and huge holes in the story I give the movie 6/10 but there are moments when it is a solid 8/10. It will make you reflect, it won't bore you and it will certainly make you wonder what would you do if you were in the characters' position. The movie would be much better, though, If Clyde murdered those people solely to revenge his innocent family and Nick was actually a likeable character, who was just doing his job, without all the disrespectful remarks and awful personality.


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