A Citizen…Abiding the Law

Carole McFaddan

In Law Abiding Citizen, the main character Clyde Shelton, played by Gerard Butler, is a brilliant planner and inventor. One night, two robbers invade his Philadelphia home and brutally murder his wife and daughter in front of him. When the killers are caught, Assistant Defense Attorney Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) makes a deal with one of the killers to testify against his partner for a short term prison sentence and to give his partner the death penalty. While Clyde doesn’t want the attorney to make the deal, Nick does it anyway. Ten years after the crimes committed, prior to the death penalty administration, the convicted killer is murdered and Clyde is arrested.

Clyde Shelton is jailed and he warns Nick that he must fix the broken justice system that failed him and his family or else anyone connected to the case will soon die. Somehow, even from jail, Clyde’s manages to make his threats reality and Nick must stop the massacre before his family is next. Understandably Clyde wants justice and when he doesn’t get it from the system he seeks revenge. Law Abiding Citizen spends a lot of time paying lip service to the inequity of a broken judicial system where “some justice is better than no justice at all.”

Throughout the film we learn more about Clyde’s life and it becomes critically apparent that his desire for revenge is not only because those closest to him died, but also because two cheap thugs got the better of him and wounded his pride. The director has seemingly written a cousin to Anthony Hopkin’s Hannibal Lecter – a cool and collected psychopath incapable of human feelings.

To give it some credit, the movie doesn’t go too out of its way to stoke audience’s blood lust. Its appalling exercise in highly intelligence brutality aside, Law Abiding Citizen attempts to pass itself off as being about justice betrayed, but consequently presents our nation’s legal system as the victim.

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