I’m not even gonna lie: the first act of Law Abiding Citizen is pretty good. I liked how things kicked off right away, no backstory, no tireless exposition, just send the goons in and get the movie going. I liked how the film subtly jumped ten years in one shot. I liked the fast pace and the dark tones. I was really surprised, at one point I thought, “Is this movie actually going to be good?” And then, sure enough, everything went to shit.
Gerard Butler is a loving family man who turns vengeful psycho 10 years after his wife and daughter are brutally murdered (that opening scene, by the way, is actually shot tastefully). Jamie Foxx is the assistant DA who gave one of the intruders a slim sentence due to cracks in the system. Foxx’s character is a noble guy, you see, but Butler could give a fuck. In his words he wants to “kill... everybody”.
This is where things go wrong. Okay, the dude spends 10 years masterminding this elaborate plan? I can roll with that. But why take it so far? The film may have been saved if, one: the guy only sought to kill the main people involved in the murder case (not dozens of innocent people). And two: Jamie Foxx either passed on the project or actually looked like he gave a shit. Foxx is a talented guy, as is evident in Ali, Collateral and Ray, but here it looks like he is remembering his lines at the last second, delivering them in an “ah whatever” manner.
Butler, one of the most overrated actors working in movies, caught a break with 300. But when are movie producers going to realize that 300’s huge box office draw had nothing to do with Butler? Anyone could’ve played that role. Watching him here as he desperately tries out an American accent is, to say the least, laughable.
And poor Viola Davis. An Oscar nominee for Doubt, and the scene stealer in World Trade Center, Solaris and Antwone Fisher is just wasted talent here as the mayor of Philadelphia. Someone give Davis her own movie.
But oh well.
Most young males want to see shit blow up, not analyze plot development or an actor’s timing. So as an action film, director F. Gary Gray (who’s done a much better with Friday, The Negotiator, and The Italian Job) delivers what the base wants. I guess. D+