Law Abiding Citizen



Violent vengeance thriller has lots of bloody brutality.
  • Review Date: October 15, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 102 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.

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. 

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:October 16, 2009
DVD release date:February 16, 2010
Cast:Colm Meaney, Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx
Director:F. Gary Gray
Studio:Overture Films
Run time:102 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:strong bloody brutal violence and torture, a scene of rape, and pervasive language

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byjoshua martinez May 9, 2010

not for kids.

law abiding citizen is a thriller movie only for adults and parents you need to know that law abiding citizen is in extremely violent and bloody movie Clyde Shelton sends Nick Rice a tape for his daughter to watch and it shows how Clyde tortures his killer by cutting his arms, legs, head, torso, and organs which can be very disturbing to watch they also show Clyde daughter being raped by his killer also there is partial nudity and a fat girl showing her thong characters used a lot of strong language throughout the movie and characters drink beer, wine, and liquor and smoke Cocaine.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written bydreamer16 October 16, 2010
I personally enjoyed it, although i looked away in the beginning out of spite. The story is good if like psychological thrillers and Gerard Butler. There is some nudity and cussing, but nothing very OMG-ish. Yes, there is a lot of violence so younger kids really should stay away. But it's a good movie and Gerard Butler did a great job.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Adult Written byxomakeupxo October 26, 2009

good movie for adults

It was a good movie for adults not for children. I thought it had an interesting plot. If you like action this would be a good one to see. There was a lot of violence, language, and one scene had a women laying in bed wearing a thong. The message was kind of good kind of bad it could go anyway depending on how you look at it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing


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