'Law Abiding Citizen' should be locked up

Contrived tale is tedious and painfully slow.

October 15, 2009 

"Law Abiding Citizen" is guilty of stupidity in the first degree.

Part horror film, part thriller, "Law Abiding Citizen" looks at what a man with a little money and a 10-year passion to get justice for his slaughtered family can get accomplished. He manages to get away with so much because he's dealing with a pack of idiots and a script that is so contrived it will make your teeth ache.

Gerard Butler plays Clyde Shelton, a man of mystery who watches as a random home invasion leaves his wife and young daughter dead. Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) is the hot shot Philadelphia attorney who prosecutes the case. The conviction is probably a slam dunk but Rice wants to keep his conviction rate high, so he cuts a deal with one of the killers. That makes Shelton mad.

Fast forward 10 years and Shelton launches a killing spree against anyone connected to the case.

Kurt Wimmer's script is a ludicrous series of events that must happen in exactly the right order or the plotline falls apart. He tries to mask the story's tedium with occasional ramblings about the criminal justice system.

Listing all the plot flaws would take more room than all the Smiths in the phone book. Here's just one example: Shelton is supposed to be some super brain who works for the government thinking of creative ways to kill people. Yet he's not smart enough to just fashion a fancy way to kill the two men who murdered his family.

Director F. Gary Gray's pacing is so slow it feels like 10 years have passed.

Foxx is passable as the crusading attorney but Butler as a psychotic killer is about as believable as a rabid Winnie the Pooh. Butler should stick to light romantic comedies or heavy special effects action movies and leave the crazed killers to actors like Anthony Hopkins.

All of this leads to an inevitable conclusion: there should be a cease-and-desist order against "Law Abiding Citizen."

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at rbentley@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6355. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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