Law Abiding Citizen

Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
Law Abiding Citizen Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Violent vengeance thriller has lots of bloody brutality.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 102 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 18 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 14 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The plot's more philosophical points about the problems of the legal system are drowned out by its murders and gory violence.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Clyde is a grief-stricken man on a brutal terrorist campaign of revenge; Nick is a career lawyer who, at first is more interested in his conviction rate than in fighting to uphold the letter of the law.


Scenes of torture; also scenes in which a young child watches the torture on DVD. An attempted rape, which is called off in order to commit murder. A lethal injection is deliberately engineered to cause agony. Scenes of stabbing, shooting, beatings, and bombs going off -- both large incendiary devices and small, hand-held deathtraps. In one bloody, brutal, and shocking scene, a man is stabbed with a sharp object repeatedly in the jugular, with copious amounts of blood. Scenes of bloody corpses as well as people paralyzed by shellfish venom.


Nude male and female buttocks. Discussions of sex acts in vulgar language.


Frequent strong language, including "f--k," "motherf--ker," "balls," "prick," "ass," "piss," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," "damn," "hell," "Jesus Christ," and more.


Very few brands are shown/talked about, but Pepsi products are seen, and iPod is mentioned by name.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cocaine use is shown; characters drink beer, wine, and liquor.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Written byAnonymous June 28, 2020

Plot Sinking Edgelordism

"There's about one humorous moment in the entire film, ""That's what wrenches are for, dumbass!"" The rest of the film takes... Continue reading
Adult Written byPres June 4, 2020

21+ for rape, nudity, violence,

When they are going to arrest him, he is completely naked. No genitals seen.
The reason that Gerard Butler is killing people is because a man raped and killed h... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written by-SquarEyes- February 1, 2014

Law Abiding Citizen

I just turned thirteen a couple of weeks ago and think this movie was perfectly suitable for someone my age maybe even a little younger than me. I watch a lot o... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byImadeThisAccoun... July 2, 2019

I may be a “kid” but I get the plot

Ok- so there isn’t ANY sex scenes. There is an indication of rape, but it’s never shown, because lets face it that would messed up if it was shown . I’m 14, I... Continue reading

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 ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. How does the impact of the violence here compare to that of "torture porn" horror movies like Saw? Which is more upsetting, and why?

  • 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?

Movie details

  • 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
  • Last updated: March 14, 2020

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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