Law Abiding Citizen

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Posted October 19, 2009 in Film

In the opening minutes of F. Gary Gray’s moral thriller, Gerard Butler plays a grieving father and husband shocked that his lawyer Jamie Foxx won’t fight harder to wreak justice on the two men who killed his family in a home invasion. Steely eyes hidden behind wire-rimmed glasses, muscular frame masked by a rumpled trench coat, he looks every inch a loser in law and life. Fast forward 10 years, and Butler unveils himself as a super genius ready to make Philadelphia pay for freeing his daughter’s murderer in just three years. For a few great, stomach-twisting scenes, we’re giddy along with Butler as he earns his revenge, but too soon, Kurt Wimmer’s script makes him lose all sympathy and become a demon of vengeance. (It doesn’t help that he tortures his second prey by cutting off his toes, fingers, limbs, eyelids and manhood.) Gray’s film turns on a series of showdowns between Butler and Foxx as the assistant district attorney struggles to find out how the man he just arrested is committing even more murders from prison. Yet Foxx’s lawyer is a little too pallid to best Butler’s brilliant killer—his idea of a comeback is “Fuck your pommes frites!” As the film gets increasingly ludicrous, Gray just lays it on thicker, but there’s the core of a fascinating amoral movie here before it gets amped up into a standard thriller; with Leslie Bibb as the plucky assistant who should be—but isn’t—having an affair with Foxx, Viola Davis as an iron-fisted mayor and hilarious character actress Annie Corley as a judge who’s invested less in justice over her whole career than Judge Judy does between two commercial breaks.

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