"A psychopath has brought the city to its knees."

Law Abiding Citizen

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            Do you have fond memories of sitting in a movie theater on a rainy Saturday afternoon watching a B-movie full of impossible situations and characters – and loving it? “Law Abiding Citizen” will take you there. The story is wrapped in unwatchable gore, but bear in mind that when the trappings are preposterous, a well made movie can become more of a comic book than a nightmare. This is a well-made, preposterous revenge thriller.

            Close your eyes as the film opens on a loving husband/father who loses his wife and daughter in seconds to grisly murder in what is now known as a “home intrusion.” Of the two murderers, one goes to jail while the other cuts a deal with the prosecutor for a short seven year sentence. While Clyde (Gerard Butler) endures the trial of the killers who destroyed his family, he recognizes in Nick, the prosecutor, the arrogance of an ambitious man who cares greatly about himself and little about justice. Nick intones: “It’s not what you know; it’s what you can prove in court. That’s how the justice system works.”

            In the absence of acceptable justice, a ten year plan of retribution materializes in Clyde’s head. Suddenly, the intricacies of the plot grab hold of us and save the movie. In spite of his malevolent plans, there is a certain amount of residual sympathy for Clyde, the bereaved dad who adored his family. He is not, you see, violent by nature, though we come to doubt that; he is simply violent in the cause of vengeance. His plans are powered by a strange kind of intellect. The police must deal with a man who can kill people at will without ever being on the scene – and that’s a trick.

            And so you will have to deal with electronic torture, with the poisonous liver of a Caribbean Puffer fish, a machine gun, a killer robot, a rocket, an electric saw, bolt cutters, and box cutters. Most terribly, you will experience a real eye-closer when Clyde straps a murderer to a table and cuts off his legs, arms, a smaller, softer limb, and finally, his head. You will experience primal horror. Just concentrate on the intellect and remember: this is a comic book fantasy.

            The avenger is a deadly and deliberate tactician. As he says to the head cop, “This is war; I’m going to bring the whole corrupt, diseased temple down on your head. It’s going to be Biblical.” And so it is. As one observer remarks, “A psychopath has brought the city to its knees.” You get the idea.

            But here’s the thing: the whole cast is good and the cerebral intricacies engage you in the horrific plans. Yet again a movie awash in blood, fireballs and gunfire can still trigger the matinee adrenaline. What could possibly be better for a B-movie finale than a race across town against the clock for high stakes? Eyes closed, hands over ears.



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