Jamie Foxx won an Oscar not that long ago so his star should be shining bright enough so that movies like this one are way, way below him. I'm not sure why he did this, but he looked like he regretted that decision before filming started. He wanders the streets of Philadelphia looking for a way out of the movie. Gerald Butler ("300") has really been working on his Scottish accent and has traded it in for a mumble through slanted lips. I know it sounds like I'm ragging on this thriller from director F. Gary Gray, but I actually kind of liked it. Remember the last scene from "Seven" and how it created an uneasy sense of dread since the bad guy was handcuffed and unarmed but you were still scared of him. "Law Abiding Citizen" is like watching that last scene over and over again. The story is about a father who sees his wife and daughter killed (LITERALLY in the first 30 seconds of the movie) and seeks to topple the corrupt system that failed to deliver him justice. It's a tired story but I'm always a sucker for it. Revenge tales mixed with vigilante justice appeals to all of us, but it has to be done right. Sadly for this movie, it wasn't. Like I said, Butler's family gets murdered immediately which doesn't give you a chance to feel for his character at all. We don't know anything about him prior to becoming the murderer he is for the rest of the film. On the contrary, we know a lot about Foxx's character and we don't really care. His family is dull, their love is phoned in and I didn't really find myself caring what happened to them. That was the running theme in this movie. Apathy doesn't drive a plot. I can't route the bad guy on without really understanding why he's so hurt. And as the movie goes on, Butler's character doesn't even understand what he's doing anymore anyway. What starts off as a gruesome, "Saw" type torture scene that really gets you excited for revenge turns into some sort of silly, unintelligible statement he's trying to make about the judicial system. He starts killing people off that didn't have anything to do with his revenge so it makes us want to route for him less and less. But it was still entertaining. It does drag a little since it's about 10-15 minutes too long. But like I said, I'm a sucker for revenge tales and vigilante justice. I enjoyed the well-thought-out murders and how far ahead he planned. I didn't understand why Foxx's character, who's a lawyer, was doing the job of the cops the entire movie; but I still enjoyed the race for him to get one step ahead of the villain. I even enjoyed the intense violence in certain scenes which played with your notions of who Butler's character was. I don't like the saying "It served its purpose" but that's exactly what this movie did. If you go into it wanting to see explosions and blood and don't expect social commentary or complicated characters seeking vengeance, then you'll be adequately pleased.
Law Abiding Citizen (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: C+