Law Abiding Citizen (2009)
I think I saw this movie at the cinema when it first came out. Since then I’ve had a firm memory that it was awful. In fact, on re-watching, I discover it’s not awful at all.
It’s not great, to be sure – no one involved is familiar with the idea of ‘subtle’, and nothing remotely intellectual, political or philosophical occurs during the film’s 104 minutes – but, so long as you’re suitably prepared, ‘Law Abiding Citizen’ is an entertaining distraction. Gerard Butler is the baddie, except he’s a goodie; and Jamie Foxx is the goodie, except he’s a baddie.
Or maybe Gerard Butler starts off as a goodie and he becomes a baddie, but actually he’s really a goodie all the way through even though he’s doing bad things; and Jamie Foxx looks like a goodie (he’s the lawyer prosecuting the baddies) but is revealed as a baddie (he is more interested in his career than ‘justice’ so cuts deals with baddies) and only through the process of trying to prosecute the baddie (Gerard Butler) (who is really a goodie) does he learn that he is, despite appearances, actually a baddie too and, by way of redemption, he eventually becomes a goodie.
Along the way there is some flinch-inducing violence, some high-end mano-a-mano acting, a spectacularly contrived back-story (Butler was a super-duper super agent with the CIA before his family was slaughtered) and some great one-liners. Lots of people die (though not quite the ‘everyone’ that the Butler character at one point memorably threatens), there are courtrooms and dungeons and gizmos, there’s a series of carefully constructed parallels between the lives of the baddie/goodie and the goodie/baddie and, in the end, there’s a satisfying ending.
Gosh. I think I might watch it again.