law-abiding-citizen_web.jpgI have mentioned in this space that Hollywood doesn’t make good thrillers anymore. Well, I’ll have to shut my mouth for a little while, because Hollywood has now released a classic thriller.

Now don’t get me wrong.  It’s not an A+ film, but it’s certainly better than the nonsense we usually have to endure each weekend.
When I first caught a glimpse of  Law Abiding Citizen’s C- grade in Entertainment Weekly Magazine, I was surprised.  A C- minus means that the reviewers didn’t like the film, but it’s possible that the film will win over audiences.  I’m inclined to give Citizen a B, myself.  I’ll tell you why.

The movie is about one man’s revenge plot. It attacks the justice system. It takes right and wrong and turns it on its ear.

Gerard Butler plays Clyde Shelton, an industrial engineer whose family, (his wife and daughter), are victims of a home invasion. 

He is the only one to survive.

When the two criminals are arrested, the orchestrator and worse of the two, Clarence Darby (Christian Stolte) gets a plea bargain for turning in evidence against his partner, Rupert Ames (Josh Stewart), and serves minimal time. 

Shelton takes the law into his own hands. 

Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), who works for the District Attorney’s Office, tries to talk Shelton into accepting that the plea bargain is for the best and that going to trial might have allowed the attackers to walk free.  In order to prove his point that the justice system has failed, Shelton spends 10 years planning the murders of not only his attackers, but also all of the other people involved in the crime.

F. Gary Gray, who first made his mark on the entertainment scene as a famed video director, is starting to come into his own.  With films like Be Cool, The Italian Job, and A Man Apart under his director’s belt, he earned my faith for this film.

I think he pulled this off quite nicely.  I even read that, during the filming, Gray had to trick his actors into standing near an explosion by doing a test run as he stood in their places.  Now, that’s what I call suffering for your craft.  Thankfully, no one got hurt.

Moving on to the writing, screenwriter Kurt Wimmer managed to write a classic thriller tale.  His intricate plot points are refreshing.  But he relied a little too heavily on the tried and true.  The film can be summed up as Inside Man with a Dexter twist, set with a Public Enemies feel. 

The setting of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a good choice. It’s known as a hub of the justice system.

In the film, it’s not just that Shelton is playing the system for all it’s worth.  It’s also the ways in which he murders people that makes it so interesting. Now, if you are squeamish about blood and guts and torture, be ready at a moment’s notice to shield your eyes.  For the rest of you, it won’t be too bad, if that’s what you’re used to seeing.

Foxx is pretty good in this film.  His wardrobe is excellently distinguished (thanks to costumer Jeffrey Kurland).  He plays off of Butler pretty well.  I honestly didn’t think Butler had it in him to be such a criminally insane individual.  Then, I think about Gamer, and I can see it.  Nevertheless, these two powerhouse men make a great team of good and evil.

Viola Davis as the mayor of Philly is herself, for the most part.  She seems to gravitate toward female characters who have very harsh dispositions, but know what they are talking about.  Regina Hall as Kelly Rice, Nick’s wife, is surprisingly talented.  I’m so glad she has gotten from under her roles in the Scary Movie franchise films and has been able to play someone who isn’t a joke.  Right on!

Leslie Bibb is a likable Sarah Lowell, a lawyer with the DA’s office.  Bibb has come a long way from her role in deflated teen soap Popular.  She’s also coming into her own in talent.  Michael Irby as Detective Garza is quite likable, as well.  He reminds me of my friend, Reggie, who saves lives for a living.  Irby always seems to pop up and lend a needed hand throughout the film.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a leading man in a TV series or film within the next five years. 

Law Abiding Citizen
is a good film, though not great. It’s a thinking thriller worthy of our hard-earned, budgeted, entertainment dollars.

But you will have to cough up some money for the babysitter, because this is not a film for innocent eyes.