"Law Abiding Citizen" is a taut thriller about a serial killer in reverse: He's already in prison when he commits all but one of his many murders, and in solitary for most of that time. So the story is a locked-room mystery: How does he set up such elaborate kills? Does he have an accomplice outside the walls, or what?
Jamie Foxx stars as Nick, the Philadelphia district attorney, and Gerald Butler is Clyde, the ingenious killer. Clyde begins the film as a loving husband and father, but then his wife and daughter are savagely murdered. Nick arranges a plea bargain: One of the guilty men will be executed; the other, in return for his testimony, will get a murder conviction but not death.
Clyde can't believe this. He saw his family murdered. Both men are guilty. On this everyone agrees. Why is one allowed to live? Because, Nick explains, the case isn't airtight without the testimony, and if they lose, both men walk free. That's not good enough for Clyde, who has 10 years to plot, plan and simmer in his hatred. That's the prologue. I won't go into detail about what happens next, except to observe that Clyde's first killing involves his penetration of the Death Row execution chamber itself -- and that's before he's in prison. Is this guy Houdini, or does he have supernatural powers?
As his methods are uncovered, it's clear he's a non-magical human being, but a clever one with remarkable resources. So remarkable, in fact, that they fly in the face of common sense. Movie supervillains have a way of correctly predicting what everyone will do and making their plans on that basis. The explanation of Clyde's methods is preposterous, but it comes late enough that F. Gary Gray, the director, is first able to generate considerable suspense and a sense of dread.
Foxx and Butler make a well-matched pair in their grim determination. Colm Meaney is underused as Nick's police partner; we suspect he might be the accomplice, given the Law of Economy of Characters, but perhaps he has a different role to play. Leslie Bibb works well as Nick's prosecutorial partner, with Regina Hall as Nick's wife, Annie Corley as the judge who experiences some surprises in her courtroom, and the powerful Viola Davis as the city's mayor.
"Law Abiding Citizen" is one of those movies you like more at the time than in retrospect. I mean, come on, you're thinking. Still, there's something to be said for a movie you like well enough at the time.
Law Abiding Citizen is a 2009 American crimethriller film directed by F. Gary Gray from a screenplay written by Kurt Wimmer and stars Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx. The film takes place in Philadelphia and tells the story of a man driven to seek justice while targeting not only his family's killer but also those who have supported a corrupt criminal justice system, intending to assassinate anyone supporting the system. Law Abiding Citizen was released theatrically in North America on October 16, 2009.
The film was nominated for a Saturn Award as the Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film of the year, but lost to Inglourious Basterds. The film also garnered NAACP Image Awards nominations for both Jamie Foxx (Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture) and F. Gary Gray (Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture).
In a home invasion, Clarence Darby kills the wife and daughter of Clyde Shelton. Prosecuting Attorney Nick Rice is unable to securely convict Darby. Unwilling to take a chance on lowering his high conviction rate, he makes a deal with Darby, who pleads guilty to a lesser charge and receives a reduced sentence for testifying against his accomplice, Rupert Ames. Ames is convicted and sentenced to death. Darby is released after a few years. Clyde feels betrayed by Rice's actions and the justice system.
Ten years later, Ames is executed. Unknown to the prosecutors and witnesses, the drug usually used has been replaced with an anticonvulsant, causing Ames to die painfully. Evidence implicates Darby. An anonymous caller alerts Darby as the police draw near and directs him to a remote location. Clyde, disguised as a police officer, reveals himself as the caller and paralyzes Darby with poison. He straps Darby to a table and videorecords dismembering him. When Darby's remains are found, evidence ties his death to Clyde. Clyde willingly surrenders and goes to prison.
Rice learns his wife and daughter have been sent the dismemberment video and are traumatized by it. He initially refuses a plea bargain with Clyde, but District Attorney Jonas Cantrell orders Rice to make a deal. Clyde demands a new bed in his cell in exchange for a "confession." In court, Clyde represents himself and successfully argues he should be granted bail, then berates the judge for accepting the "bullshit" legal precedents he cited and for being too eager to let madmen and murderers back on the street. The judge jails Clyde for contempt of court.
Clyde demands a steak lunch and a music player be delivered to his cell by a specific time, in return for telling where to find Darby's lawyer, who was reported missing. Rice agrees, though the lunch is delayed by a few minutes by the warden's security measures. Once he has his meal, which he shares with a cellmate, Clyde provides a set of coordinates where Rice and the others find Darby's lawyer, buried alive but suffocated by time-mechanized materials while Clyde's lunch was delayed. As loud music plays in Clyde's cell, he proceeds to kill his cellmate with the bone of his steak, forcing the warden to secure him in solitary confinement.
Cantrell arranges a meeting with a CIA contact and brings Rice. They learn Clyde previously worked with the agency, creating imaginative assassination devices. They are warned Clyde can kill anyone anytime he wishes. During a meeting with Rice and Cantrell, the judge dies when her cell phone explodes. Clyde demands all charges against him be dropped or he will "kill everyone". Rice takes precautionary measures instead. After a deadline has passed, a number of Rice's assistants die from car bombs. Leaving the funeral of a colleague, Cantrell is killed by a weaponized bomb disposal robot. Rice meets with Clyde in private and punches him repeatedly. Clyde stands his ground and tells Rice that he is just beginning to destroy the current system and all who believe in it. The mayor puts the city under lockdown and promotes Rice to acting District Attorney.
Rice learns that Clyde owns an auto garage near the prison. A tunnel leads to a cache of guns, disguises, and other equipment below the solitary confinement cells, with secret entrances to each cell. He and Police Detective Dunnigan realize that Clyde wanted to be in solitary confinement all along; this allows him to easily leave the prison without detection, carry out his pre-meditated murders while misleading the cops who assume he must have accomplices. Evidence points to Clyde's next target, City Hall, where the mayor is holding an emergency meeting. Rice and his men cannot find Clyde but discover evidence pointing to a cell-phone-activated suitcase bomb in the room directly below the meeting.
Clyde returns to his cell. He is surprised to find Rice waiting for him. Clyde suggests another deal, but Rice says he no longer makes deals with murderers, thanking Clyde for teaching him that. Rice warns him to not do anything he will regret, but Clyde's cell phone is ready to be dialed to activate the City Hall bomb. Rice and Dunnigan leave immediately when Clyde dials the phone. Clyde realizes too late that Rice has moved the bomb to his cell, which is now sealed. Clyde holds his daughter's bracelet, accepting his fate as the bomb explodes.
The epilogue shows Rice watching his daughter in a musical performance on stage, something he had been unable to find time for previously.
Frank Darabont was originally attached as director, but left the project in early October 2008 over script disagreements. According to rumor, his relationship with the film's production company "ended ugly."
In a reversal of their roles in the final version, Gerard Butler was initially signed on to play the prosecuting attorney, while Jamie Foxx was the criminal mastermind operating from inside prison.
Filming began in August 2008 and took place in and around Philadelphia. Filming locations included Philadelphia's City Hall and the now closed Holmesburg Prison. Holmesburg's "Thunderdome command center" is quite evident in the movie.
The film was edited after being threatened with an NC-17 rating for violence, with the full version released unrated on Blu-ray.
Main article: Law Abiding Citizen (soundtrack)
The score to Law Abiding Citizen was composed by Brian Tyler, who recorded his score with a 52-piece ensemble of the Hollywood Studio Symphony at the Sony Scoring Stage with help from Kieron Charlesworth. The film also uses "Eminence Front" by The Who and "Engine No. 9" by Deftones on Clyde's iPod while he is eating his steak in his cell. While Clyde calls Darby to help him 'escape' the police after Ames' execution, "Bloodline" by Slayer is Darby's ringer. The tune at the end for closing credits is "Sin's A Good Man's Brother" by Grand Funk Railroad.
The film was released theatrically on October 16, 2009. The first theatrical trailer was released on August 14, 2009 and was attached to District 9.
The premiere was held on November 15, 2009 at the Cineworld complex in Glasgow - hometown of Gerard Butler. Many British tabloids have labeled this event as the "Homecoming Premiere", in reference to the Homecoming Scotland 2009 celebrations.
The film took second place in its opening weekend, with $21,039,502, behind Where the Wild Things Are. It went on to gross $126.6 million total worldwide.
Law Abiding Citizen received negative reviews from critics. Critics on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 25% score, with an average rating of 4.3/10 based on 155 reviews. The site's critical consensus states that "Unnecessarily violent and unflinchingly absurd, Law Abiding Citizen is plagued by subpar acting and a story that defies reason". In contrast, users on the site gave the film an average score of 75%.
In his review for the Chicago Sun Times, Roger Ebert said, "Law Abiding Citizen is the kind of movie you will like more at the time than in retrospect." He then went on to say, "Still, there's something to be said for a movie you like well enough at the time." Ebert rated the film 3 out of 4 stars.