Sunday, October 25, 2009

Law Abiding Citizen

"At exactly what point- did we lose control here?"

A seemingly average man reveals himself as much more when his family is murdered, and the District Attorney's office cuts a deal that sets one of the guilty men free.

What's the only thing worse than an awful movie?
Cinema Factoid: Between the years 1990 and 2000 Samuel L. Jackson appeared in more movies than any other American actor. I bring this up because apparently Gerard Butler has similar goals set for the 2011-2020 decade, and if he keeps up this pace he just might do it. This movie is his third feature film release this year (fourth overall) and in terms of his performance, he saved the best for last.
About a half hour into Law Abiding Citizen I found myself thinking of David Fincher's Se7en, which is one of the best compliments I could ever give to a fellow psychological thriller. But where Kevin Spacey's John Doe is an unpalatable monster- Butler's Clyde is an interesting breed between a villain and an antihero. In what is simply the best dramatic performance I've seen from him yet, Butler has the audience rooting for him if only between bouts of complete disgust.
From Jamie Fox we see a simpler character made almost as interesting, which is still a compliment. Add all this to the movies straight off the line intensity, and the fact that both Colm Meany and Bruce McGill are in a movie together (which pretty much made my day) and you have what I had thus far been convinced was a recipe for a great movie. I leaned back into my seat and allowed myself to be taken for the remainder of my ride with no doubt that I would be pleased...
So, what's the only thing worse than an awful movie? A terrific movie- with an awful ending.
It was like a train wreck: I didn't even know there was a problem until we were already careening across the country side, track nowhere to be seen. Law Abiding Citizens ending flies in the face of everything the movie seemed to be building toward: motives are completely over turned, characters act and are treated completely against the boundaries they'd been established to have, and a decently mental experience is concluded with big booms and clever one-liners. The over all conflict of the film isn't even addressed, let alone resolved. And what was shaping up to be a interestingly dynamic character is all of a sudden revealed to be completely static- there by negating any point to the movie at all.
To me it screams of bad test audience response, an eleventh hour re-write- which would be fitting since even the cast was rearranged at the last minute (originally Butler and Foxx were set to play each others roles) It would also explain the movies one hour and forty-eight minute run time, which leaves the ending where the story feels like it should just be beginning to climax. And this is where that voice in my head pipes up, arguing that maybe the ambiguity of the ending was the whole point, that the fact that the main problem could never be solved (or even cared about apparently) was what Law Abiding Citizen was there to sell all along. Put simply if it was, I'm not buying it.

Reel Deal Recommends:
Colateral: For an under appreciated thrill with Jamie Foxx
RocknRolla: Gerard Butler, Guy Ritchie, Great Movie.
Cinderella Man: Bruce McGill's and every other performance in this movie soars.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: I'm sorry, but in my heart Colm Meaney will always be Chief O'Brien.

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