FlixChatter Review: Law Abiding Citizen

If you read my blog regularly, you know I’ve been pumpin’ this flick for quite a while. Yet, come Friday afternoon, after reading all the dismal reviews by top critics, I sort of had second thoughts about it. Now, it’s not because I give that much faith in what the critics say, but I was actually dreading what they called ‘unnecessary violence’ and gore, and the SAW horror gore-fest comparison. I’m very, very squeamish about stuff like that, so even with the prospect of seeing Gerard Butler in nearly every scene, I still had some reservations whether I could stomach the violence. Thanks to Becky, I went to see it anyway, and boy, am I glad I did!

First thing that came out of my mind when I got out of the theater: What’s the critics’ been smokin’? Did they even watch the same movie?

With the efficient running time of 1 hr 48 minutes, the film quickly grabs your attention and doesn’t let go until the end. It opens with a cuddly scene of a seemingly happy home of Clyde Shelton, tinkering with some kind of gadget whilst his young daughter makes a string bracelet. But within minutes, that idyllic existence is snatched away in a gruesome way that ended with his wife raped and killed in front of him whilst he helplessly watched. As if that weren’t enough, the same thug that raped his wife then went after his daughter, right about the same time Clyde passed out. Boy, that’s just within the first 10 minutes. It’s easily the most horrific opening scene I’ve ever seen.

We’re then introduced to Nick Rice, a successful District Attorney (Jamie Foxx) with his perfectly-pressed suit and a stellar record of 96% conviction rate (which he indignantly pronounces when his colleague mistakenly think it was ‘only’ 95%). The ambitious DA ends up cutting a plea bargain with the assailant, despite Clyde’s pleading that the jury would believe him if this case goes to court. Nick keeps blabbing about the DNA evidence being inconclusive — even using the fact that Clyde blacked out during the incidence against him — but it’s obvious the attorney only cares about maintaining his conviction rate. It was harrowing to watch what happened to Clyde in the beginning, but it’s just as painful to see him from a distance watch Nick shaking hands with the criminal that destroyed his life.

Fast forward 10 years later, and Nick’s humble home is now transformed to a luxurious dwelling that signifies his growing success. His daughter is nearly 10 but he has no time for her nor for her mother. His priority is his job, and he’d rather miss her daughter’s cello recital (again) but instead opt to see the execution of one of the thugs that robbed Clyde. A vicious ‘mishap’ happens during the execution by lethal injection, and we soon finds out that Clyde’s not going to take this ‘injustice’ laying down. He then goes after Darby, who only served 3 years in prison for what he did, and makes him suffer a barbaric death (I had my eyes closed the entire time, but Darby’s agonizing squeal is enough to make me squirm!). As part of his strategy, Clyde surrenders to the SWAT team that swarm his house, with nothing but his daughter’s bracelet on his wrist. The nude scene isn’t gratuitous as one would be inclined to think, but he did it to say, ‘I have nothing to hide.’

Nick visits Clyde in prison
Nick visits Clyde in prison

Critics compare Clyde with some movie nutcases such as Hannibal Lecter, John Doe from Se7en, even the Joker, but the difference is, Clyde is no psychopath. His grief and distraught state of mind obviously has taken over him, but he doesn’t kill people simply to satisfy his lust for blood. All the grisly murders are calculated tactics with one intended target: to send a message about the crooked justice system. Now, by no means do I condone such vengeful acts, but at the same time, I’d rather not have people like Darby roaming on the street freely to repeat his crime again and again. So I sympathize with why Clyde wants Darby dead, but it’s another matter when he starts targeting all the people of the legal system involved with his case, all from the confinement of his cell!

The rest of the movie plays out the mano-a-mano between the two leads. There are some memorable lines during the negotiations, including Clyde’s quoting 18th century military strategist Carl von Clausewitz, “lessons not learned in blood is soon forgotten.” He manages to one-up Nick and blindside the entire city with his systematic killing spree. Even the mayor (played by Oscar nominee Viola Davis) was puzzled, “he’s locked up in a cell and still killing people?” The big question going through everyone’s mind was: how does Clyde pull it off? This is the biggest complaints from the critics, that it’s implausible and absurd that one guy can do all that. Well, this is a movie, of course some suspension of disbelief is to be expected. Even so, I actually find the ‘absurd’ plot in question to be quite sensible. Someone with Clyde’s skills and money devoting 10 yrs of his life to mastermind his ‘war’ against the broken justice system doesn’t seem that far-fetched to me. I mean, that seems an adequate amount of time to plot such a tactic, especially for such a weapons expert good enough to be hired by the US government for covert special ops.

What I like the most about this movie is the ambiguity and gray area of the lead characters, it’s not clear-cut who’s the hero or villain of the movie. Like a lot of moviegoers, I tend to side with Clyde, but becoming less so with the mounting body counts. It makes the face-off between him and Nick all the more effective, as we don’t know who we’ll root for next.

Gray directing Butler
Gray directing Butler

I also enjoy F. Gary Gray’s fast-paced and energetic direction and how he peppers the serious tone of the movie with sporadic wit and humor. It’s definitely far from boring. The movie also gives a noir-ish vibe that the director spoke about in his video diaries. The lighting and music captures that, even though I don’t really ‘notice’ the music that much, which is a good thing as it blends in nicely and helps set the mood, instead of being a jarring piece that sounds good but detach you from the movie. The  juxtaposition scenes, particularly between the cello recital and the death chamber, is an effective and captivating visual style. I also love the cinematography with its gorgeous aerial view of Philly.

It’s interesting to note the lopsidedness of the top critics’ ratings with those of the regular moviegoers (top critics’ 25% vs. average moviegoers’ rating of 94% @ rottentomatoes.com). The disbelief probably should be in the critics’ credence, as most people disagree with them (read a compilation of very positive users’ rating here). Their three main complaints are the implausible plot, what they call unnecessary violence and gore, and sub-par performances. I’ve addressed the first point above, but as far as the graphic scenes, it wasn’t as bad as they made it out to be. Even my friend Becky who can’t stand gory stuff said it was tolerable as the deed mostly happen off-screen.

The critics are also way off when it comes to the acting aspect. You might think I’m biased here because I like Butler, but truthfully, I think this is could be the best performance of his career. From his previous roles, I know he’s an actor that can bring a layer of vulnerability to his bad-@$$ performances. But he takes it another notch here with his sympathetic and convincing portrayal as both as a bereaved family man, as well as the menacing rogue hellbent on carrying out ‘justice’ at any cost. Jamie Foxx delivers an okay performance, I just don’t care with his character much, which is probably intentional. Naturally, the crazy-dude role is much more exciting and gets the best lines, so Butler’s role is the far more memorable one by a long shot. The supporting cast is terrific, too, especially Bruce McGill as a fellow lawyer and Colm Meaney as the detective, even Leslie Bibb makes for a sympathetic character. If I had to nitpick however, I actually find Viola Davis’ performance rather over the top, as she comes across as furious and cold the entire time.

In conclusion: It’s not a perfect movie (but then again what is?) and the ending could be more tightly written, as it feels too rushed and perhaps too ‘neat’ compared to the gritty events leading up to it. Yet despite its flaws, it’s still an enjoyable, edge-of-your-seat thriller that’s well-worth my 10 bucks. Though the film doesn’t necessarily have ‘answers’ to the foible of the legal system, it does leave me pondering about it, and creates some interesting discussion afterward.

Gerard Butler’s hosting SNL this weekend!

I don’t normally watch SNL, but I’ll definitely make an exception this weekend. Check out this promo:

I’m surprised it took so long for SNL to invite Gerry to be the host. He’s downright funny and gregarious. Sure he’s known to play brooding, fiery and ill-tempered guy, even borderline psychopathic in LAC, but he’s such a good humored, goofy kind of guy in real life, well at least that’s his off-screen persona anyway. That’s why I look forward to every time his new flick opens, as that means he’ll be doing the talk-show rounds and delight us with his sense of humor. He never seems to run out of one wacky tale after another. You might not be sold on his movies, but it’s hard not to fall for his undeniable charm or be amused by his crazy stories and the way he’s telling them.

It’s tough to pick the funny GB videos on youtube as there are too many of them, but here’s a compilation of his hilarious moments:

One of my favorites was when he did an interview in Japan to promote Dear Frankie. The girl is hilarious, too, even GB was amused by her!

Anyhoo, TGIF! I’ll be off to Law Abiding Citizen tonight. Stay tuned for my review on Monday.

Counting down to Friday – Law Abiding Citizen finally opens!

Law Abiding Citizen UK poster
Click to see the Jamie Foxx version of the poster

I’ll give you a moment to take in this intense and alluring poster (ok, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Mr. Butler has mesmerizing eyes!). EMPIRE Online just released the UK posters for LAC and boy, this is a much more superior version that the US version here. Looks like they went back to the earlier version that shows GB’s brooding eyes staring straight at you, but improve it immensely. Alas, that’s got to be the worst tag line ever though, sheesh, did they spend all the money on the graphic designer that they couldn’t afford a decent copywriter?? One commenter mentioned it might as well be a Steven Seagal movie, ugh!

In any case, the wait is almost over. LAC opens in three days and I’m EXCITED!! I know, I know, that’s a bit of an understatement… I’ve been bloggin’ about this for months whilst skipping two of GB’s last offerings (for good reasons). The last movie I was excited to see him in was Rocknrolla — decent but wasn’t as rockin’ as the title — but THIS is the movie I’ve been eager to see for quite some time. It also marks his producing debut, so a lot is riding on his shoulders as he’s been involved in the creative process from the get-go.

But from what I’m seeing so far, I’ve moved from hopeful to confident this is going to be one heck of a thriller. EMPIRE said “Gerard Butler always looks more comfortable onscreen when he’s bringing the pain than when he’s bringing the hearts and flowers.” I think more accurately, Butler looks more comfortable when he can be menacing AND vulnerable at the same time. Just like the Phantom, the line between victim and villain is blurred and like the actor himself said in a Fandango interview when asked who’s the villain in the story, “…there is a big struggle with who you are supporting in this film.” That I think that’s the biggest draw of the movie to me, as displayed in this latest clip between the DA (Jamie Foxx) and Butler’s Clyde Shelton:

I’m totally digging the dialog, even his American accent is much improved here (Mike B., I know you might disagree with me on this one). I can still hear a very slight Scottish brogue here and there, but so what, his character could be of a Scottish descent, like most Americans have an accent of sort, there are multiple accents found even in one given state. So that part doesn’t bother me. IMO, he’s still downright convincing as a scorned ordinary man who’s more than meets the eye.

M.Carter at the Movies asked me if I’m excited for this Friday, so Meredith, here’s my long answer =) That’s cool that you’re going to give Butler another shot, here’s hoping he and the movie don’t disappoint!

Law Abiding Citizen’s 4th Clip – Biblical

Ok yeah, that line will get spoofed on a lot. It’s kind of like Butler ‘THIS IS SPARTA!!’ line from 300.

GB’s channelling Kevin Spacey’s John Doe role in Se7en here, and longtime GB fans know he’s got that darkness/danger edge to him beneath his jovial nature. He even said so himself according to LA Times blog: “This is the Hannibal Lecter role. It’s Kevin Spacey in ‘Se7en,’ “

I follow LAC’s director F. Gary Gray on Twitter and lots of people who got lucky enough to see the screening in L.A. and NY tweeted their responses and they all seem to like it. One called it a ‘roller coaster of a movie,’ and another even gushed that it was a spectacular movie. I’m just hoping it’d live up to the trailer and GB has a substantial movie in his hands after a couple of recent duds.

Brand new Law Abiding Citizen clip – Get Down

Thanks to director F. Gary Gray for the info via Twitter.

To those who haven’t heard about LAC — sheesh, where have you been? =) — here’s the gist: An everyday guy (Clyde) decides to take justice into his own hands after a plea bargain sets his family’s killers free. His target: The district attorney (Nick) who orchestrated the deal. Jamie Foxx is Nick and Gerard Butler plays Clyde. Wow, looks like the DA will soon learn a very important lesson: be careful who you’re messing with.

See the Confession clip I posted last week. The movie comes out October 16. Can’t wait!

THIS JUST IN: Law Abiding Citizen Clip – Confessions

F. Gary Gray just said via Twitter that he’s going to the very first screening of his new thriller tonight. Regina Hall, Bruce Mc Gill, & Gerard Butler will be there. “Tonight’s the very first screening of “Law Abiding Citizen”. It’s finally finished & I feel really really good,” he tweeted.

The film is also set to kick off Urbanworld Film Festival next Wednesday, Sept. 23 in New York. I’m curiously waiting the early reviews of the movie. In the meantime, check out the exclusive clip courtesy of MovieWeb.

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LAC and Clash of the Titans Featurettes

I love behind-the-scenes stuff, those are almost as much fun as the movie itself. It’s also a great marketing tool that big studios are obviously aware of. That’s why Law Abiding Citizen director’s uses Twitter to send links to making-of videos, including the latest one on the scoring session with composer Brian Tyler:

If you look closely, you could get a glimpse of some of the scenes playing in the background, albeit a bit fuzzy. So far, I’m impressed with the score and how involved F. Gary Gray is with the entire production.

Cinematical revealed the final poster, which is a rework from the teaser posters but with some added grainy effect and a splash of color. The site also said some good things about the vigilante story, “…the sheer breadth of its explosiontastic search for justice – which looks like Die Hard: With a Vengeance swallowed Ransom, Death Sentence, and Se7en – is enough to draw a new line in the vigilante sand.” This definitely makes me even more pumped to see the movie!

I also found Clash of the Titans set-visit featurette from MTV news that gives a glimpse of the filming in Wales (in the rain!), as well as interview snippets with main actors Sam Worthington, Mads Mikkelsen and Gemma Arterton. One of my top ten anticipated movies of next year, it could be the next Gladiator in scope and popularity. Greek mythology is always an interesting subject matter, and I for one loves swords & sandals flicks that promises lots of action and dramatic scenes.

The video offers a brief glimpse of what director Louis Leterrier (Hulk) has in store for us. It’s cool to see the actors goofing off and seemingly having a darn good time on the set, too. Take a look: