So who’s worse? Crazy vigilantes after pipe-hitting justice the system won’t provide, or the Teflon-coated shysters who profit from everyone else’s pain?
Law Abiding Citizen attempts to address this pertinent social issue for, ooh, the opening credits sequence, before deciding it can’t be bothered and would much rather pig out on bits nicked from the likes of Cape Fear, The Silence Of The Lambs and Se7en, before sicking them all up into a pulpy mess.
At least it wastes no time setting out its stall. When Clyde Shelton’s (Gerard Butler) soft-focus idyll is shattered by family-murdering rapists, his smug lawyer Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) cuts a deal to let one of the perps go free. This, understandably, winds Clyde up a bit, resulting in elaborately conceived scalpels-and-blowtorches homemade vengeance.
But once Shelton’s in chokey, the payback kills keep coming – and as a supporting cast of judges and lawyers are dispatched one-by-one via exploding cellphones, car bombs and remotecontrolled machine guns, the inevitable race against time to stop him before things “get Biblical” (Shelton’s words) ensues.
Is he the bad guy? Is he the good guy? Does anyone care? Given it’s directed by F Gary Gray (who brought you A Man Apart and the Italian Job remake), LAC was never going to be a nuanced critique of the US justice system.
The problem is, it half-heartedly tries to be, and when moral hectoring is stirred in with comic-book revenge and Grisham-esque legal drivel, it gets hard to swallow.
The saving grace is Butler’s hamtastic Lecter-like evil genius – he just about counters Foxx’s punchable performance. But still this schizoid movie barely has enough oomph to function as a bone-headed action flick, let alone have anything of value to actually say.
Could have made for a decent enough B-movie renter if it had just aimed a bit lower, but the moral drum-banging only serves to throw its failings into even sharper relief