Law Abiding Citizen

Brutal revenge is an old story not made new by a pretty well-known cast from both sides of the Atlantic.

Incarceration is no bar to a criminal master plan properly planned and executed, as Kevin Spacey illustrated in Seven and the Corsican gangster boss shows in Jacques Audiard's Cannes prize-winner Un Prophète. The Scottish beefcake Gerard Butler (300) is Clyde Shelton, a covert government agent whose devious mind lends itself to sadistic violence after his wife is murdered and the justice system fails to satisfy his thirst for revenge. His first victim dies in agony on death row (Clyde has doctored the lethal injection to make sure there is nothing painless about it). The second he ties to a table and dismembers while the man is still conscious. Giving himself up to the authorities, he promises to confess all, just so long as they treat him right. Meanwhile, the vendetta continues, with judge and state prosecutors disappearing even as Clyde kicks his heels in a cell. Written by Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium, Street Kings) and directed by F Gary Gray (The Italian Job, Be Cool), Law Abiding Citizen is ingeniously stupid, compelling but preposterous. Jamie Foxx ostensibly headlines the show as the district attorney whose pragmatic dealings have pushed Shelton over the edge, but the movie is stacked against him. Clyde is always a step ahead, and somehow this crazed sociopath has righteous indignation on his side. Butler (who also produces) doesn't make a very convincing mastermind - but then, by the time the filmmakers lay their hand on the table we see that the story's trump card is all bluff.

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