out of Five
Running time: 108
If you can get past its rather unpleasant, reactionary message, this is a slickly made, trashily entertaining and ridiculously implausible thriller that's more fun than it has any right to be.
What's it all about?
Directed by F. Gary Gray, Law Abiding Citizen stars Gerard Butler as Clyde, whose idyllic life is brutally shattered when two thugs rape and murder his wife and daughter. When his lawyer, Nick (Jamie Foxx), accepts a plea bargain that lets one of the killers walk free after three years, Clyde swears revenge on both the killers and the entire legal system.
Ten years later, one of the killers fries in a nasty electric chair accident and Clyde is arrested for the brutal torture and murder of the other one (Christian Stolte), having been found, naked, at the scene of the crime. And when the various lawyers and judges involved in the original case start getting blown up, Nick has to figure out how Clyde is orchestrating it all from behind bars before it's too late.
F. Gary Gray keeps the action ticking along at a decent pace, with an explosion-based death every few minutes or so, just to keep you on your toes. The plot is patently ridiculous (the big reveal is mind-bogglingly stupid) but, to the credit of everyone involved, it's played admirably straight-faced throughout and it's a lot more fun than it ought to be as a result.
Butler's not exactly the righteously raging, charismatic charmer the script thinks he is, but he's clearly enjoying himself and that works well enough – there's also something perversely enjoyable about Butler employing his twinkly-eyed romcom schtick while playing a psychopath. Similarly, Foxx is intriguingly cast, because he doesn't seem all that bothered and you wonder how many more of his friends will have to die before he gets upset.
Aside from its sheer ludicrousness, the film's biggest problem is its reactionary, rather fascistic assumption that brutal violence solves everything and its even more worrying conviction that the audience will be at least partly on Clyde's side.
Dodgy politics aside, Law Abiding Citizen is a slickly made, trashily entertaining thriller that builds to a suitably explosive climax. If only all Gerard Butler films could end this way.
Law Abiding Citizen (R18)