Gerard Butler makes revenge a dish served too cold for an Eskimo
Image Courtesy of IMPawards.com
Director: F. Gary Gray
Notable Cast: Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler
The revenge film has made an interesting comeback since the events of September 11, 2001. From The Brave One and both Punisher films to Death Sentence and Man on Fire with various films of wildly varying quality between, actioneers about revenge have come back in vogue en masse. In almost all of them, the offending party and nearly anyone associated with their offense are punished in a stream of righteous punishment. Something about this period in time has made Hollywood determine that a tumultuous time is perhaps perfect for tales of vengeance. But what would happen when a man who’s been wronged opts to continue his path of vengeance through the system he perceives as having let him down? That’s the crux of Law Abiding Citizen.
Clyde (Gerard Butler) is an ordinary man, an engineer by trade, who has an unspeakable tragedy happen to him. Tied and beaten, he watches as two criminal thugs kill his wife and daughter. When Assistant District Attorney Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) cuts a sweetheart deal with one of them in exchange for testimony on the other, and admits that “some justice is better then none,” it drives him over the edge. Ten years later, with the execution of one of the killers ending up going horribly wrong, Clyde’s path of vengeance doesn’t just end with the killers of his family. He’s lost his humanity and intends to take down the entire system, Nick included, from the confines of his jail cell. And while it’s two leads (Butler and Foxx) both give top notch performances, the film is weighed down by the need to wrap things up smoothly.
And in a year where Gerard Butler has certainly proved he can handle a wide variety of roles, from action hero (Gamer) to crass talk show host (The Ugly Truth), playing the villain in a thriller is another opportunity for him to shine. Whereas most action villains go over the top in some regard, befitting the genre, Butler bucks the trend by playing Clyde as a methodical, calculating man who’s been wronged. Intent on making everyone connected to a miscarriage of justice pay for it, Clyde’s motivations are not ordinary criminal motivations. In any other film he’d be the hero, and it’s easy to sympathize with his motivations, but the film lets him go beyond the normal threshold of revenge and make that cross into the realm of psychotic villain. Wonderfully intelligent and calculating, Butler is refreshing in his portrayal of a villain in a genre that normally features bombastic and loud antagonists seeking fortune by any means necessary. Clyde only wants one thing: vengeance. Everything he values has been taken away from him, leaving that as a sole motivating means.
He makes for a wonderful opponent for Foxx, who is crafting two competing career arcs at the moment. He’s willing to helm action thrillers like Miami Vice and The Kingdom to commercial success while still adding dramatic roles to his resume. It gives him a diversity of roles and two distinct personas: “Give me an Oscar” and “Cool action hero.” This is definitely a case of the latter and Foxx does not stray from the sort of character he developed for Rico Tubbs in Vice and continued in Peter Berg’s underrated film. The only thing missing from Nick is a machine gun and a good set of sunglasses; he’d fit in easily in the cinematic worlds of the Miami PD or the FBI for Foxx.
The film follows Foxx’s standard action persona with its own standard action thriller plot, as the film’s finale is a case of a twist meshing with Deus Ex Machina to wrap everything thing up neatly. While it may be perhaps for the best, as there’s no other real way to wrap up a film like this, it makes Law Abiding Citizen a top notch but ultimately flawed thriller.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):
Tags: Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx