The Worst: Law Abiding Citizen

Law Abiding Citizen is a disgusting film. It wallows in grief and torture and uses those themes as mere props in a weak-ass “thrill ride”. The most surprising moral taught by Law Abiding Citizen is not the weakness of our justice system but that we need to be spending more time with our families.  Let me be clear: more than just being disgusting, Law Abiding Citizen is just a flat out terrible movie.

Jamie Foxx is an actor who surprises me by being able to convincingly play sympathetic characters while portraying a public persona of a huge jagoff. In LAC Foxx plays Nick, a lawyer for the District Attorney of Philadelphia and a huge jagoff. Surprisingly, Jamie Foxx isn’t very good in this film precisely for this reason. You see, Jamie Foxx doesn’t think of himself as a jerk. I mean, of course. This lack of self-awareness leaves Foxx unsure of how to portray this heartless asshole character. He plays his early scenes like he is the flyest D.A. in town and spends the rest of the movie pouting that no one will do what he says. This is the difference between Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. Downey can play an asshole like Tony Stark and make you feel compassion and empathy for an egomaniac alcoholic because RDJ in real life is a recovering addict who is grateful for his renewed success and is well aware of the slippery, untenable nature of fame, celebrity and sobriety. Jamie Foxx thinks he is a gift to us all and plays most characters that way. Nick as written might have displayed a level of regret and soul-searching as he considered the consequences his decisions have had on the people around him. Foxx chooses to play him without a hint of remorse, sticking with bad decisions even after his boss is blown up with a missile launcher.

The setup for the entire film is flimsy. A couple of thugs break into Gerard Butler’s house, beat and bind Butler and his wife, stab Butler and his wife, rape and kill the wife, then kill Butler’s daughter(offscreen). According to Nick, they could lose the case against these guys since after seeing his wife stabbed and raped, Butler passed out. So instead they’re doing a plea deal of some sort where one guy goes to death row while the other gets a couple of years. It isn’t clearly explained. I related with Butler’s character as Nick explains, “we could win, but we could also lose”. Butler says “Ok, I can handle those odds” and Nick says “Sorry, not up to you, deed’s been done”. Butler has the correct reaction of waiting ten years to kill EVERYONE. So, setting our entire film in motion is the premise that Jamie Foxx’s lawyer character doesn’t want to do his job because it is hard and the audience surrogate(up to this point) says, “That’s bullshit!” This setup bugged me for about half of the movie and then when I’d decided to let it go and roll with it Nick’s assistant played by Leslie Bibb asks him, “Do you regret the decision you made that has led to the deaths of so many innocents?” and Jamie Foxx is all silent and serious-face, yet clearly unconvinced of his wrongness. You were lazy, dude. Own it. Even the finale where Jamie Foxx uses a bomb to blow up Gerard Butler and then walk away from the explosion without looking at it, Foxx’s expression is still one of “Dude made me do it.”

I’m over torture porn. Martyrs broke me and Audition broke me again while also healing me, most other films of the type come across as gutless. Law Abiding Citizen incorporates some torture porn aspects into it’s basic thriller design and they suck. Director F. Gary Gray doesn’t have the courage of his convictions so the only person who actually gets to see Gerard Butler take a bone saw to a dude is Nick’s daughter who should stop opening other people’s mail*. We do get an after the fact shot of dismembered body parts on a table but who hasn’t seen that before? Tropic Thunder had better gore. But worst of all, since Law Abiding Citizen is such a cruel and empty film, I couldn’t even enjoy the action and violence if I had wanted to. When Butler interrupts a conversation with a cell mate to savagely stab him in the throat it occurred to me that up to that point the two characters were having a moment, relating to each other through their shared experience of incarceration and enjoying each other’s company as they shared a meal. It was fucked up and sad. I do not believe that to be the filmmaker’s intent.

So what were the filmmaker’s goals? The film is a failure as a commentary on our justice system since justice wasn’t perverted so much as not even attempted because Nick is lazy. It fails as a thriller since the only forward momentum is whether Gerard Butler is going to kill someone (he does! Spoiler alert!). And worst of all it isn’t even fucking entertaining. Everyone is miserable either because their families are dead or they themselves are worried that they and their families will be killed. It doesn’t even work as camp (though the tank gattling gun in the graveyard scene comes closest). What we’re left with is pretty worthless.

*This scene is also based around a false premise since no ten-year old child would watch a video of themselves performing the cello at a school recital without parental prompting.
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21 Responses to “The Worst: Law Abiding Citizen”

  1. Charlotte Says:

    Whether good or bad, it is sad that you make your living demeaning others. Get a real job and make a productive input into society and then make a statement

  2. john doe Says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, you’re just a cynic. You could not appreciate the writing see how you were apparently just flash blinded and shocked by a film employing something dark as a rhetorical device in essence. “relating to each other through their shared experience of incarceration and enjoying each other’s company as they shared a meal.”, that comment alone irrevocably shears the shroud of your intellectual shortcomings. Inability to grasp what was being crafted by the writer, the scene was not constructed to appeal to your sense of brotherly love. But please just dismiss my comment as an obnoxious attack on yourself.

    Just taking my comment’s negative appeal as a homage to your work above. Good day. (sorry but your review pissed me off, all to our own I suppose, I would appreciate it if you don’t delete this comment)

    • Lorin Says:

      I heartily approve your comment, John Doe(so brave to use a pseudonym). I enjoy any informed discussion of a film’s merits and the assumed intent of the filmmaker. Am I aware that the sudden violence in the scene you cite was used as a sharp juxtaposition from the previous acts of friendship and kindness? Yes. Is it crass and disgusting? Also yes. It also left me without anyone in this movie to root or care about. You call me a cynic, yet I’m not nearly as cynical as Law Abiding Citizen.

  3. Zolo Says:

    Found this site searching “Law Abiding Citizen SUCKS” and so glad I found it. This movie is so bad, when I read or hear someone praise it I actually question their sanity. Stupid story. Horrible overacting. Insipid dialogue.

    They should have turned the graveyard robot on themselves instead of releasing this crap. Oh yeah, and graveyard robot was laughably stupid as hell.

  4. Al May Says:

    I think you missed something….”When Butler interrupts a conversation with a cell mate to savagely stab him in the throat it occurred to me that up to that point the two characters were having a moment, relating to each other through their shared experience of incarceration and enjoying each other’s company as they shared a meal.”… they were not as you say ‘having a moment’…the man spent 10 years ‘setting this thing up’ THIS prisoner was in the the wrong cell at the wrong time, there was no relationship in the making. As a commentary on our justice system, while over the top, it is not that far out of line…really bad people go unpunished every day,never caught, or worse caught and released. IMHO

    • Nirol Says:

      Exactly, “You can’t fight Fate.”
      This movie is sheer genius, you can’t compare it too any other modern movie. It’s just that different and puzzling. It’s not the good ‘ol “bad guy loses and good guy is praised, unscathed” film. How many times do you root for the man killing innocent people? For me, first time. Crazy Good movie.

  5. Completely Opposite Opinion Says:

    You clearly did not understand the true meaning of the movie. The fact Clyde murdered everyone in the movie was because he was trying to make a statement about how corrupt the judicial system is. Once his family was murdered, he became a desensitized machine bent on exacting his revenge on the system that let the man, who killed his wife, free. Like how Al May mentioned above, Butler’s character stabbed his inmate because he had already planned for it. I don’t know if you caught this, but he knew he would be sent to solitary once he stabbed him. And “that moment” you thought he was having with the guy in jail was clearly good acting on Butler’s part, since his character was trying to fool the inmate into a sense of false security. You really think Butler’ s character, who intentionally allowed himself to become jailed, really “shared a moment” with a man already convicted of a heinous crime? No. Especially since crime and the court system was the reason for his actions in the first place.

    • Mike Says:

      There is no “true meaning” of this movie. It’s simply movie producers capitalizing on a subject they know appeals to a large audience: revenge. The only problem is that they completely fuck it up and at the end of the day, the bad guys win.

      The idea that Foxx’s character would be able to outsmart Butler’s is laughable at best.

    • rick Says:

      Clyde new so much in the film from research and plotting that he could have actually known what his cell mate did to get there..although the cell mate didnt seem like a killer because he didnt seem that dangerous..neither did clyde until his families fate. I took it as the guy did a very evil thing to be put in jail and somehow clyde could have known what cell he may have been headed to..the movie makes you think outside the box.

  6. Richard Garneau Says:

    This the most entertaining and provocative review I have ever read. Than you. Bang on as well.

  7. Jake Says:

    Yea that movie is shit. Great post.

  8. Hudson Hedge Says:

    It was a trip into the mind of a sociopath, Gerard did an excellent job of playing the part, the movie was meant to be a physiological thriller (somewhat disturbing) not murder porn like Saw, nor was it intended to be commentary. Gerard’s character was a text book sociopath so to him his family wasn’t just family, but they were something he owned and created, hi character was extremely well written. However, Foxx was awful in it (he really isn’t that good of an actor) and his character was relatively well written, an egomaniac (he settled to keep a conviction record instead of taking the chance and losing the case) who will do anything to sustain his ego, but Foxx didn’t play him well. My biggest issue with the movie was the shit ending where he dies, the scene before that bomb scene they said he had cameras everywhere, but he didn’t have a camera watching the fucking bomb, bullshit. It should have ended with Gerard killing all those people and Foxx in a complete rage over what he considers a major loss decides to confront Gerard in his cell and just murders him there.

    • Bill Baggins Says:

      There are so many things wrong with your assesment that it comes off as accidental satire. You clearly have no idea what a sociopath is and it is not as you say a “physiological thriller”(does that even exist?

      • Hudson Hedge Says:

        Yes I do know what a sociopath is, but I don’t think you do, a sociopath is a person who’s condition is a product of environment or events of some nature which typically cause antisocial tendencies, lack of remorse, egocentrism, an lack of empathy. Oh, you know who that description fits pretty well, Clyde Shelton from Law Abiding Citizen. Also yes psychological thrillers do exist, it’s an entire genre that Law Abiding Citizen falls under (are you really this ignorant) and includes many other movies such as: Se7en, Jacob’s Ladder, Hannibal, Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, The Shinning, Taxi Driver, and many more. Please educate yourself before replying again, and next time you reply reply to raise actual discussion and not just attempt to be condescending.

  9. Sovereign64 Says:

    Nick Rice is clearly without a doubt, the biggest asshole I’ve seen in any film PERIOD. He always believe every decision he makes is the right decision (As shown in the scene where he tells Sarah that ‘we made the right decision’ to her question.) and that he is the best lawyer in the entire system. No Nick, you are NOT the best lawyer in the system, especially when you don’t have the guts to take Darby and Ames to trial all because you think there’s a high chance of you losing and all because you want to save your god damn 100% conviction success rate.

    The scene that REALLY makes me irate is the scene where he tells Clyde that ‘This broken thing works for people who are sane.’ When I heard that, I was angrily banging my fists on the table. SERIOUSLY NICK?! Where the hell do I even begin?!

    1. Was Clarence Darby sane when he broke in Clyde’s house, stab him and forces him to watch his wife and child die in front of him?

    2. Clyde WAS sane until you made that deal with Darby and Ames ALL BECAUSE YOU WANT TO SAVE YOUR 100% conviction success rate!

    3. Go fuck yourself Nick. You have no right to believe you are a sane person and the best lawyer in the justice system when you think sparing Clarence Darby’s life from execution is the righteous way!

    I hate this movie mainly because the movie forces us to side with the justice system when pretty much everyone in the justice system is an asshole. Nick, the judge, Bill Reynolds and even Dunnigan. Nick especially is an egotistical, unsympathetic, arrogant asshole and therefore makes him the worst excuse for a protagonist. Even by the end of the movie, I don’t feel any sympathy for him because he continues to act as a smug to Clyde til the very end. He deserves to have people he knows die around him and the emotional pain Clyde is giving him. Fuck this movie. Everyone except Clyde in this movie is an asshole.

    • Bill Baggins Says:

      Agreed for the most part. Although, I dont believe in the death penalty, it’s to easy, let those guys rot in jail.

  10. fuckyou Says:

    I also think its silly that nick came out victorious, being that gerard was supposed to be the bad ass tactician. Jamie fox is a terrible actor, i think they casted this movie all fucked up. Writers are to blame too. I still don’t get why jamie foxs character was going along with the police on all their investigations.I guess lawyers do investigating now. I thought they were supposed to prepare cases and present them in the court. It seemed like Jamie fox should have just played a detective in the movie, would have made a lot more sense.

  11. rporterfield Says:

    Long time past this movie’s debut and the newest replies are from a year ago but I have to agree on so many points.
    I was at a friend’s house when they started watching this. All I saw was the opening scene where a family guy opens a door and two men come in and murder his wife and child right in front of him, also raping the woman and presumably the child too. I was so floored with disgust and rage at this that I started crying and wanted to go home. These friends apologized to me but seemed shocked at my reaction. All I could think was “how could you NOT have that reaction? Who watches this for ENTERTAINMENT?” I was in total shock.
    I have seen and heard some really nasty stuff at times in life but I am blown away that anyone would want to create this kind of horror to be played out over and over. Innocent people are murdered and harmed every day. There is enough darkness in the world. Why would anyone want to exploit that by making MORE of it!? Eventually, my curiosity got the best of me. That scene haunted me for months. I went back to the movie to see if there was some sort of redemption, or good story, or hell, even a good lesson. NOPE. Nada. Nothing.
    The story absolutely sucked. There was no substance whatsoever. It was just one long bad ride of torture and killing and revenge. It seemed to just sort of flop around like a dead fish not really GOING ANYWHERE. So disappointing and I’m so sorry I wasted any more time on it. I could have even dealt with a sad ending. But at least give an excellent story. It’s like the director used the gore and the horror and the shock value of it to cover up a lack of good acting, writing, etc.

    • Lorin Says:

      Hi Rporterfield, thanks for the comment. This film and this review incited more comments and reactions than I ever could have anticipated. I like a lot of crazy wild movies and this came recommended to me as something “that is just like what you are into”. But obviously it failed, it’s gross. Thanks for the comment, thanks for reading.

  12. Jeff Harris Says:

    LAC Rotten Tomatoes score is 75%. If Clyde would have won, my guess that number is 90%+. Clyde being outsmarted by Nick is the only reason I would agree to 75% and not much higher.

    Of course, I’m using the audience score because Critics opinions on movies are worthless to anyone that goes to movies to be entertained.

    Want to be preached at about some political issue? Find a critics score of 90% and you’re sure to have a movie that has very little entertainment value whatsoever with a high chance of feeling annoyed/dirty when you leave the theater.

    Was the violence in the jail cell disgusting? Yes. Was it too much? Sure. But, do you really think Clyde didn’t know the crime his cell mate had committed? Did he deserve to die for his crimes? My guess is Clyde believed that a just legal system would say yes.

    Who cares if Nick’s child saw someone gets taken apart in pieces? The child’s father is a monster who lets rapists and murderers free. Nick’s child and wife need to know that their Dad is a piece of garbage under his good guy facade.

    When people right reviews like this I have to wonder when did the disconnect happen? When did you lose sight of why people go to the movies? I’m sure it was way before you decided you were over torture porn.

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