“Can’t fight fate.”
This action thriller involves a seemingly normal citizen named Clyde Shelton who eventually faces off with prosecutor Nick Rice and the entire city of Philadelphia in Law Abiding Citizen. Nick, played by Jamie Foxx, deals directly with Clive, played by Gerard Butler, who weighs his own measure of justice on the killers and eventually high ranking civic leaders. Clyde switches between innocent “normal guy” expressions to menacing glares as audiences strap in for a though provoking ride.
Clyde’s background becomes an important element as he tackles the system head on and even embarrasses a high ranking judge in a key court room scene. Clyde evokes a city wide, terrorist-like fear as he brings the entire city to its knees among his intellectual duel scenes with Nick. Even Nick’s colleagues, Sarah and Jonas, played respectively by Leslie Bibb (Iron Man) and Bruce McGill (Vantage Point) begin to question the legal system and wonder if these actions might atone for any justice missteps. “I just want to make sure I’m doing this for something more than a high conviction rate,” Sarah says to Nick.
Colm Meaney (Star Trek Deep Space Nine television series) and Michael Irby (The Unit TV series) provide Nick with some police assistance and the audience with some well timed comic relief after particularly intense scenes. “We have to stay in front of this guy (Clyde) if we want to stay alive,” says Meaney’s character Detective Dunnigan. Recent Oscar® nominee Viola Davis (Doubt, Nights in Rodanthe) has a strong role late in the film as Philadelphia’s mayor while Regina Hall plays Nick’s wife and the young Emerald-Angel Young plays his daughter Denise.
The screenplay shapes some jolting scenes, timeline breaks and surprises plus genuine tension that does not “toy” with an audience or feel manipulative. Potential plot points like cell phone use and supporting characters as possible suspects give way to straight forward actions. This plot contains echoes of the Joker’s menacing internal terrorism in The Dark Knight while creating several original scenarios with strong closure and logical explanations amid the twists and turns.
Director F. Gary Gray (The Negotiator) keeps strong focus on this gritty gem while adding some stylistic visual techniques in key sequences including a unique “stage” sequence which weaves a music recital and an execution scene together. The film provokes thoughts on society and the current justice system long after the ending credits role. Recommended (***) and rated R for brutal violence, torture, sexual violence and pervasive language.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler