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.
Clyde Shelton's family is brutally murdered. The ones responsible are caught. However, because of improper procedure, the D.A., Nick Rice only has circumstantial evidence. So he decides to get one of them to testify against the other. When Shelton learns of this, he is not happy. Ten years later, the one who was convicted is being executed but something goes wrong; his execution goes awry and he suffers. They learn that someone tampered with the machine. And the other one is found dead, killed in a gruesome manner. Rice suspects Shelton, so he has him picked up. At first, Shelton agrees to a plea agreement with Rice but changes his mind. It appears that Shelton is not done, it appears he blames the whole system and is declaring war on it going after everyone involved with his family's case. So Rice has to stop him but Shelton is way ahead of him. Written by
While Gerard Butler was originally signed and announced to play the role of Nick Rice, there are divergent stories about how Jamie Foxx took on that role and Butler was re-cast as Cylde Shelton. In one version, Foxx called the producers and asked if Butler would like to play Clyde Shelton instead, as he liked the role of Nick. When the producers approached Butler about playing Clyde, he thought about it for a second and reportedly said "Jamie as Nick... and me as Clyde? That would be awesome!" However, Butler also said in an interview that HE suggested the role switch between himself and Foxx via his role as a producer on the film. Butler also said that he initially regretted that this idea was implemented by the other producers, but added that the entire process worked out well for the project. See more »
When Nick and Clyde are in court before the Judge, Nick repeatedly refers to his government as "The State". Pennsylvania is a Commonwealth and is referred to as such when speaking in the third person in court. See more »
[to Clyde softly while he sits in a confinement cell]
I what I'm about to tell you I don't anybody else to hear as a prosecutor I'm breaking all the rules right now and I don't give a damn because I'm a father, I have a little girl and what you did: bravo, the world is better without Darby and Ames, you're not going to see a tear shed from me or anybody in my office.
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"Law Abiding Citizen" starts out like a modern-day version of "Death Wish," spends a few moments aping the "Saw" franchise, then settles in as a cat-and-mouse crime drama centered around the theme that the American legal system seems designed as much to thwart justice as to enact it.
The movie stands firmly in the long tradition of wish-fulfillment fantasies in which the victim of a broken legal system - functioning as a stand-in for an equally frustrated and helpless audience - finally says enough is enough and takes matters into his own hands, even going outside the limits of the law, if that's what it takes, to achieve justice.
As with the Charles Bronson character in "Death Wish," Gerard Butler's Clyde Shelton witnesses his wife and daughter being brutally raped and murdered by a couple of armed intruders. When the worst of the perpetrators cops a plea and is back out on the streets after a mere three years behind bars, Clyde is forced to take matters into his own hands. But he isn't content merely to bring down the killers themselves but to systematically go after everyone in the legal system from strict-constructionist judges to hamstrung attorneys - who helped facilitate the injustice. That's where Nick Rice, well played by Jamie Foxx, comes in, the decent but by-the-book prosecutor who helped set up the deal and has now, along with everyone else involved with the case, become a prime target for Clyde's take-no-prisoners reign of terror and retribution.
The one thing that distinguishes "Law Abiding Citizen" from similar films in the genre is that it's not afraid to have a deeply troubled, possibly even psychotic, character at its core. For Clyde does not fit the mold of the typically lovable antihero. The audience is, in the early stages at least, asked to root him on as a conventional Angel of Retribution dispensing the justice that the court system saw fit to deny him, but so much of what he winds up doing steps so far over the line that we eventually balk at his tactics. It's this moral ambiguity that helps to mitigate some of the implausibility of Kurt Wimmer's screenplay, which often goes for effect at the expense of credibility. Indeed the movie's insistence at making him a sort of omnipotent, omnipresent existential force of nature to be reckoned with takes the movie out of the realm of reality and cheapens some of what it is trying to do. And, in the process of reaching its climax, the movie takes a plot turn so ludicrous and credibility-defying that the whole thing pretty much crashes and burns at the end.
That being said, Nick's interactions with Clyde are fun to watch and, thanks to taut direction by F. Gary Gray, there are some moments of genuine suspense scattered along the way. So if you can put your skepticism and critical-thinking skills on hold for the duration, you can have a pretty decent time with "Law Abiding Citizen."
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