Student Voice


May 29, 2024




‘Law Abiding Citizen’ fails with confusing plot

November 6, 2009

When looking at current society, it’s safe to say that, for the most part, the majority of the human population finds itself to be one that is evolved.

We have technologies that outstretch most imaginations, powerful and well-developed educational systems, and strong values or beliefs that can push good men and women into becoming even greater ones. Ideals like these are what many seem to consider the divider between human and animal nature. They encourage and nurture our sense of justice - of what is right and wrong and what actions can lead to both.

Now of course, we find ourselves in moments of doubt sometimes. Instances including uncertainty and pain can cloud our vision and make us lose sight of what we originally strove for. In times when this occurs, we look to others, or their institutions to yield what we cannot: honesty and fairness. So how does one respond or act when even these systems of integrity fail? While some may try to protest or revive a dying cause, others will push and fight, nearly snapping an already broken system into even further fragmentation. In this week’s film, we see just how such a reaction can affect not only the foundation that was built, but also the people that live, work and sacrifice within it everyday.

“Law Abiding Citizen” takes place within the heart of Philadelphia where in one horrible evening, everyday family man Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) loses everything. After the brutal robbery of his home left his wife and daughter viciously raped and murdered, Clyde turns to the Pennsylvania justice system to seek vengeance for a loss more painful than any other. Attorney Nick Rice (played by Jamie Foxx) serves as Shelton’s lawyer who, after a very long and challenging legal battle, decides to cut a deal with one of the two men responsible for the Shelton murders.

Outraged by Rice’s decision to focus on the money and politics involved in seeking the death penalty for both men, Shelton retreats into isolation, only resurfacing ten years later to prove to Rice that injustice has a far greater consequence than a failed attempt at the righteous thing. The result is an hour and forty-eight minutes of violent vigilantism, in which there can only be one conclusion: lessons of integrity seem to come the hardest for those who are the most indifferent.

While the message built around the film is one of great importance I fear it lost a lot of its power and validity because of the confusing and inconsistent plot that followed. Fast to build, the story seemed longwinded and repetitive in who was next to be killed and why. Though Gerard Butler gives a powerful performance individually, there seems to be no genuine connection to Jamie Foxx’s Rice, making the dialogue between the two forced and disingenuous at best. This, along with the continuous and progressively more violent killings, lead to an initial shock and then an abrupt plateau of been there done that.

That being said, overall the movie was one that brought about an interesting question: how must one fight what is unrighteous? Though a topic of great controversy, the subject of justice is one that clearly should never be ignored, bad movie or otherwise.

Katie Heaton is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.