1 December 2009

He's Going To Kill EVERYONE?!

'Tis the season to be jolly and all that. Problem is, I still haven't seen either of the two new Christmas films in the cinema this year, so I can't blog on that topic just yet. Arg. Instead I'm going to do a short post on a film my busy university and work schedule has allowed me to see this week, Law Abiding Citizen with Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx. As something of a regular disclaimer, it's only my opinion on here- others are available. As ever, mild spoilers may occur in the process of reviewing, but never so far as to spoil any major plot developments.


Moving right along, the film starts with two killers bursting into Clyde Shelton's home and mudering his wife and daughter in front of him. Shelton survives, but is dismayed when an ambitious young lawyer, Nick Rice, allows one of the killers to go free on a plea bargain. Ten years later, Nick is the District Attorney of Philadelphia, and the Shelton case is about to come back to haunt him. He hunts Clyde down after a series of killings and puts him into police custody, only to find that Clyde is a master tactician, and that the killings aren't going to stop just because he's behind bars. Law Abiding Citizen attempts to broach the failings of the American justice system with as many booms, bangs and wallops as possible, but right away, there's a problem with that.

The slightly vanilla title aside, I expected this film to be quite good- the trailer looked just crazy enough to be this year's equivalent of Taken, a thriller that had a serious core but which still carried a warning along the lines of "don't think too much". What this film is instead isn't quite as memorable. If the film had took itself as seriously as I was taking it, it would immediately have jumped up a notch in my estimation. I wasn't taking it seriously at all, and thus that's where Law Abiding Citizen fell down for me. Shelton's murderous antics from inside the jail have been done similarly before and done better, with the Joker in The Dark Knight remaining the high benchmark for post-Hannibal Lecter criminal masterminds. An unfair comparison perhaps, but for the large part, watching this film felt like watching those ten minutes where the Joker is in prison, but in slow motion.

More than that, Gerard Butler- oh, sorry, I'll say it right, GERARD BUTLER! still isn't turning in much in the way of a memorable or distinctive performance. In fact, both he and Jamie Foxx are sort of miscast as their characters. Butler is still best known as that bold and caps-locked fellow we remember from 300, and though he's considerably more clothed here, he still fails to convince either as a bereaved family man or as the James Bond government agent type that Clyde turns into after the story's been set up. Jamie Foxx just seems to turn up for the paycheck too, though I've never really been convinced he's as good an actor as people say he is. This miscasting also brings down that message that the film's trying to send, turning what could've been an enjoyable action flick into something that needlessly tries to be more weighty and falls considerably short of its mark. That said, the action setpieces are good, and the plot unfolds in a largely satisfying manner up until the last ten minutes or so, where a bonkers twist leads into a consequence-free climax. Nobody learns anything, further undermining the "serious" factor.

If you saw the trailer for Law Abiding Citizen, prepare to have been mis-sold on the premise a little. It's not as action-packed nor as enjoyable as the advertising campaign has made out, but I definitely recommend you take my approach before you go in and don't take it seriously. Ignore the slight preachiness about the justice system, because the ending is strictly by-numbers and several earlier threads are left dangling in the wind. I found the film moderately entertaining, albeit overly grisly. Indeed, the 18 certificate could have been avoided with one minor cut or alteration to the violence, and this film might have found a broader audience. It's not bad, but you might want to hold this one in contempt for a while, at least as long as it takes for the DVD to be released.

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It is December, so some Christmas films and posts are imminent. Please don't yell at me, and if you've seen Law Abiding Citizen, why not share your comments below?

Don't forget, we're also reaching the end of the year, the end of the 2000s and most crucially, the end of David Tennant's era on Doctor Who, so you can expect some best-of lists mixed in with some of the reviews towards January.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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