You’ve seen it before. Man’s family is killed, the justice system can’t do anything, so the man takes the law into his own hands. Law Abiding Citizen has a little twist though; the man taking the law into his own hands is in jail. How is he killing people while he’s sitting in a jail cell?
Clyde (Gerard Butler) is a family man. He loves his daughter and his wife. He’s seen at the beginning tinkering with a computer chip under a magnifying glass while his daughter is making bracelets for him. Then he answers the front door. Two men invade the home. Bound and gagged, Clyde watches as his wife and daughter are murdered.
Up and coming, sweet-talking, prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) is out to get justice any way he can. More worried about his conviction percentage than the actual people involved, it seems like Nick will make any kind of deal with anyone just to help himself out.
After Clyde hears that only one man will get the death penalty while the other only serves five years in prison because of a plea deal he can’t believe it. The justice system has failed him. His wife’s murderer is making a deal and getting off with a slap on the wrist.
Ten years pass. Nick has been promoted within the District Attorney’s office. The man on death row for the murders is scheduled to be put to death; only the execution doesn’t go according to plan. The man suffers excruciating pain, other than the pain free death promised to death row inmates.
The trailer for the film gives away that Clyde is behind this murder and a whole slew of other murders of people connected to his case. After Clyde is arrested it’s a cat and mouse game between him and Nick. The first half of the film plays out well, and on some level it’s just plain popcorn fun.
Later on we’re let in on the secret (which is also spoiled in the trailer) that Clyde may actually be some type of government spy. Not a regular spy, but a super smart spy that invents clever ways to kill people. Simple ways, like creating a ratcheting thread for a necktie that would strangle its wearer. Now that’s inventive, so why do all of Clyde’s killing plans seem slightly less creative than a killer necktie?
The movie falls apart when it thinks audiences want to be dazzled with exploding things rather than entertained by creative intrigue. A killer tie is much more entertaining and interesting than a simple exploding car or a generic bomb. We’ve seen those things before.
In the end Law Abiding Citizen stays too safe. It’s afraid to venture out of the already charted territory of cat-and-mouse thrillers. Specific plot points are based on convenient coincidences. We can see the “twists” coming a mile away. What starts out as a semi-interesting thriller slowly molds itself into an easily forgettable one. I’ve seen hundreds of movies where people die because of bombs. I want to see just one where someone is killed by a self-tightening necktie.