A lot or a little?
Parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Law Abiding Citizen contains several scenes of extremely bloody violence -- in addition to the home invasion/robbery/attempted rape/murder sequence that it begins with, there's a brutal stabbing and a horrifying torture scene in which a chemically paralyzed man is strapped to a gurney and has his limbs and organs sliced off. Viewers don't see the actual slicing, but they do see the man's limbless, mutilated corpse, and some of the crueler acts are discussed at length. The matter-of-fact nature of the brutal scenes is particularly disquieting. There's also plenty of strong language, some sexual content (including partial nudity), drinking, and drug use.
What's the story?
In Philadelphia, thugs invade the home of engineer Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler), killing his wife and daughter. Ambitious prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), worried about his conviction record -- and the possibility of the killers walking -- cuts a deal that earns one criminal the death penalty and another a light three-year sentence. Ten years later, starting with the lethal injection of the sentenced criminal, Clyde is waiting with a plan to punish the guilty -- and the lawyers and judges who let the deal happen. Can Nick unravel Clyde's deadly plan before his own life is forfeit in the name of justice?
Is it any good?
Ludicrous and over pumped, LAW ABIDING CITIZEN is an overdone thriller that also has some real shocks and a couple of nasty surprises. Director F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, The Negotiator) has the flash and enthusiasm to make this kind of film and the other diversions that have made up his career, but watching him flail for deeper meaning and social commentary is a bit of a strain. Foxx is decent and tortured; Butler is an appropriately regretful sociopath until the film's third act, when he has to kick the homicide up a notch to drive the film toward its climax.
As a new-millennium spin on films like Death Wish or Taxi Driver, Law Abiding Citizen works well when it keeps to the simple kinetic energy of the action; Clyde's machinations are just one step removed from the four-color outlandishness of a comic book evil genius. Gray assembles the bits and pieces of Kurt Wimmer's script with competent mechanics, but he falters when he tries to connect the action set pieces with a plot that makes sense or doesn't kick against the limits of plausibility. Law Abiding Citizen has its moments, but those moments don't have a movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Where's the line between vigilante justice and cold-blooded murder? Are we supposed to admire Clyde when he kills criminals, but not when he kills people at the district attorney's office?
What's the difference between "justice" and "law"? Do plea bargains and other deals keep the mechanism of justice tunning smoothly or divert it from its true intent?
- In theaters: October 16, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: February 16, 2010
- Cast: Colm Meaney, Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx
- Director: F. Gary Gray
- Studio: Overture Films
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong bloody brutal violence and torture, a scene of rape, and pervasive language
For kids who love thrills
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.