I originally received this DVD to review for another one of my freelance outlets, just a regular non-genre movie and entertainment website. But as soon as the Unrated Director's Cut of Law Abiding Citizen started rolling, I knew it was one for the horror crowd — and the blood-thirstier, the better!
This flick's a legal thriller, serial killer, and action chiller all rolled into one and it hits the ground running in the opening sequence as family man Clyde Shelton's (Gerard Butler) wife and young daughter are raped and murdered before his helpless eyes in a two-man home-invasion robbery. Shelton is stabbed, but survives. Before long, the bad guys are caught and funneled into the legal system. The victim assumes justice will be done, as he got a good look at the killers and is more than willing to testify… but prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) cuts a deal which allows one of the men to walk, dashing Shelton's hopes for closure. Seething and stewing, an outraged Shelton plans his revenge and lies in wait.
The first to die is Rupert Ames (Josh Stewart), the killer on death row. Then the freed criminal Clarence James Darby (Christian Stolte) is kidnapped and brutally tortured and murdered by a manic Shelton, who films the crime and sends a DVD to Rice. An atoning Rice attempts to defend the obviously disturbed widower, but Shelton wants to go to prison. While behind bars, the vicious vigilante orchestrates an elaborate series of murders, targeting Rice and the legal team who failed at winning justice for Shelton's wife and daughter. In this way, Law Abiding Citizen's main character is reminiscent of Saw's John Kramer, Death Wish's Paul Kersey, and to some extent Silence of the Lambs' Hannibal Lecter, and Cure's Kunio Mamiya. He's got his reasons and he's sympathetic, but he is hell-bent on the utter destruction of certain people who've wronged him.
Director F. Gary Gray (whose previous credits include Friday, and The Italian Job) is bang-up at keeping the pace going and the suspense taut. In the Unrated Director's Cut (markedly more gory and gruesome than the theatrical release), he doesn't shy away or skirt the imagery. KNB F/X, best-known for their work in horror movies and on CSI, definitely pulled out all the stops. Actors Butler and Foxx are right-on in their conviction, and the supporting cast (Leslie Bibb, Bruce McGill, Colm Meany, Viola Davis), is strong. The cinematography and score, while not outstanding, are competent and complimentary to the story.
Now… having said all that, I should mention Law Abiding Citizen is totally ridiculous, overwrought, silly and unbelievable. It's a popcorn flick, and should be looked upon as such. It's not going to win any Oscars, and none of the characters will become iconic. But it's fun, entertaining in an exploitative kind of way, and horror fans will definitely get an eyeful. (Oh, and female 300 fans, fear not: Butler's butt is in evidence more than once.)
The Blu-ray DVD almost got chucked out the window more than once thanks to its illogical and labyrinthine menu system, but aside from that it's pretty good (and it's only game in town when it comes to the Unrated version; those without Blu-ray players will have to be content with the less-intense R-rated theatrical release).
There are some decent making-of featurettes (including a smart one with plot observations and opinion by actual attorney), a commentary by producers Lucas Foster and Alan Siegal (laughing and scratching, mostly), Behind the Scenes with Director F. Gary Gray, Preliminary Arguments - The Visual Effects of Law Abiding Citizen, and a truly baffling chapter entitled "The Verdict - Winning Trailer Mash-up!" (I watched it twice, and still have no idea what it was).
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