Law Abiding Citizen
|Law Abiding Citizen|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||F. Gary Gray|
|Written by||Kurt Wimmer|
|Music by||Brian Tyler|
|Edited by||Tariq Anwar|
The Film Department
|Distributed by||Overture Films|
|Box office||$126.7 million|
Law Abiding Citizen is a 2009 American crime drama thriller film directed by F. Gary Gray from a screenplay written by Kurt Wimmer and stars Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx. The film takes place in Philadelphia and tells the story of a man driven to seek justice whilst targeting not only his family's killer but also those who have supported a corrupt criminal justice system. Law Abiding Citizen was released theatrically in North America on October 16, 2009.
The film was nominated for a Saturn Award as the Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film of the year, but lost to Inglourious Basterds. The film also garnered NAACP Image Awards nominations for both Jamie Foxx (Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture) and F. Gary Gray (Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture).
In a violent 1999 home invasion, engineer Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is forced to witness the rape and murder of his wife and young daughter by Clarence James Darby (Christian Stolte) and his unwilling accomplice Rupert Ames (Josh Stewart). Prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) is unable to use DNA evidence (which had been contaminated by police handling) to securely convict both accused, leading to a possibility that he might lose the case should he support Shelton. Unwilling to take a chance on lowering his 96% conviction rate, he chooses to make a deal with Darby (the actual murderer), letting him plead guilty to a lesser charge, in return for testifying against Ames. Ames is falsely found guilty of masterminding the break-in and personally committing both murders and is sentenced to death. Shelton feels betrayed by Rice's actions, as he had pleaded with him not to make the deal and to at least try to convict both of them, and because he chose to release the actual killer. Despite this, Nick reasons that some justice is better than no justice at all. Darby serves his shortened sentence and is released just a few years later.
Ten years after the conviction, Ames is executed via lethal injection. Unknown to the prosecutors and the witnesses, the pancuronium bromide used in the execution was replaced with an unknown corrosive substance, possibly strychnine, causing Ames to convulse, hemorrhage, and die an extremely painful death. Upon inspection of the potassium chloride canister, Rice and his colleague see the words, "CAN'T FIGHT FATE" written on the label. This implicates Darby, as he had spoken the same words to Nick many years before.
As the police draw near to arrest an unsuspecting Darby, an anonymous caller alerts him and offers him a way to escape, directing him to a remote location nearby. Shelton, disguised as a cop, reveals himself as the caller and paralyzes Darby with puffer fish venom delivered via the grip of a rigged pistol. He takes Darby to an old warehouse and cuffs him to a table, while also hanging a full-length mirror above Darby to force him to watch his own brutal torture. Shelton injects Darby with adrenaline to prevent unconsciousness, while also allowing all pain to be felt. He then activates a video camera and proceeds to slowly dismember Darby, killing him when he is finished. When Darby's remains are found, circumstantial evidence tentatively ties his death to Shelton, as the warehouse that the murder was committed was under his name. Despite knowing the evidence is weak, Shelton surrenders himself, and points out the flaws in Rice's case against him. Shelton, knowing Rice will need a confession, baits Rice by telling him he will give a full confession if Rice will get a new bed for his cell. Shelton references the conviction ten years ago, saying that Rice would make deals with criminals. Rice laughs at the offer and ignores Shelton.
As he leaves the interrogation room, Rice receives a phone call from his wife and learns that Shelton had sent a copy of the snuff film of Darby's murder to his house, traumatizing his young daughter. He initially refuses to bargain with Shelton in order to get a confession but District Attorney Jonas Cantrell orders Rice to make the deal. In court, Shelton chooses to represent himself. Instead of confessing, Shelton successfully argues with strong legal context that he should be granted bail, citing weak evidence and lack of criminal record. However, after bail is granted, he suddenly berates the judge for so easily accepting the "bullshit" legal precedents he himself cited and for being too eager to let madmen and murderers back on the street. Out of anger, the judge jails Shelton for contempt of court and denies him bail.
Once in jail, Shelton gives a full confession to Nick as per their deal and then demands a porterhouse steak lunch be delivered to his cell by a specific time. Rice initially laughs this off as their earlier deal had already been done. However, Shelton reveals that he would disclose the location of Darby's lawyer, who they then discover was reported missing three days earlier. Rice agrees, though the lunch is delayed by a few minutes due to the warden's additional security measures. Once he receives his meal, Shelton provides a set of coordinates, where Rice and the others find Darby's lawyer: he was buried alive in a crate but suffocated when his air supply ran out minutes earlier. Back at the jail, Shelton baits his cellmate into joining him in his meal, before stabbing him in the neck with the steak's bone and killing him. Upon discovery of the murder, the warden moves Shelton into solitary confinement.
Following a tip, Cantrell arranges a meeting with a CIA contact and takes Rice along. They learn that Shelton had in fact worked with the agency previously as a "brain", a highly trained agent whose job was creating devices to assassinate people in imaginative ways without ever being physically present. Further, they are warned that Shelton has no contacts but is capable of killing anyone he wishes, no matter who they are or where he is. The contact warns them that Shelton does nothing without a reason, and if he's in solitary confinement at the prison, he's there because he wants to be there, and not that they put him there. Rice and Cantrell meet with the judge who presided over Darby/Ames' case, and she agrees with their request to violate Shelton's rights. Immediately afterward, she answers a call on her cell phone, which promptly explodes against her ear and kills her. When Rice questions Shelton, Shelton explains that the murders are not about vengeance, but about the corruption of the justice system. Shelton makes one final demand that Rice drop all charges against him (before 6 AM the next day) or more people will die. When Rice again fails to meet the demand, a number of Rice's assistants are killed by car bombs; one of which is Sarah Lowell (Leslie Bibb), a loyal colleague whose death deeply affects Rice. Rice loses his temper and punches a laughing Shelton, who then threatens to "pull the whole thing down". Rice immediately moves his family to a safe house. As Rice and Cantrell leave Lowell's funeral, Cantrell and several other colleagues are killed by a weaponized bomb disposal robot operated by an unseen person. The angry and frustrated mayor (Viola Davis) puts the city under lockdown and promotes Rice, who initially tries to resign, to acting District Attorney, replacing Cantrell.
While making a further background check on Shelton, Rice discovers that he used to own an auto garage less than a mile from the prison. Exploring this property, Rice and Detective Dunnigan (Colm Meaney) find an underground tunnel that leads to a cache of guns, disguises, and other equipment, right below the solitary confinement cells. Evidence in the tunnel points Rice to Shelton's next target - city hall - where the mayor is holding an emergency meeting with all the city officials. Rice and his men can't find Shelton, but discover evidence pointing to a cellphone-activated napalm bomb in a room directly below where the meeting will take place.
Shelton returns to his cell via the garage after planting the bomb and is surprised to find Rice waiting for him. Rice states that it is the end of the road for him and he should do the right thing. Shelton says that he is doing the right thing but Rice just has to see it that way. Rice explains that it's not right to murder people and that Shelton is only causing the same pain that he is going through. Shelton suggests another deal, but Rice states that he no longer makes deals with murderers, and that Shelton taught him that. Shelton is elated that Rice has finally understood, but despite Rice's pleas, Shelton chooses to detonate the bomb. Rice quickly leaves the cell, revealing that it was a trick; Shelton discovers the bomb handcuffed to his bed. He sits on his bed pulling out his daughter's bracelet, gazing at it with a look of sadness as the bomb explodes.
The last scene of the movie shows Rice attending his daughter's recital, something he had initially put off due to work.
- Jamie Foxx as Nick Rice
- Gerard Butler as Clyde Alexander Shelton
- Colm Meaney as Detective Dunnigan
- Bruce McGill as Jonas Cantrell
- Leslie Bibb as Sarah Lowell
- Michael Irby as Detective Garza
- Gregory Itzin as Warden Inger
- Regina Hall as Kelly Rice
- Emerald-Angel Young as Denise Rice
- Christian Stolte as Clarence James Darby
- Annie Corley as Judge Laura Burch
- Richard Portnow as Bill Reynolds
- Viola Davis as Mayor April Henry
- Michael Kelly as Bray
- Josh Stewart as Rupert Ames
- Roger Bart as Brian Bringham
Frank Darabont was originally attached as director, but left the project in early October 2008 over script disagreements. According to rumor, his relationship with the film's production company "ended ugly."
In a reversal of their roles in the final version, Gerard Butler was initially signed on to play the prosecuting attorney, while Jamie Foxx was the criminal mastermind operating from inside prison.
Filming began in August 2008 and took place in and around Philadelphia. Filming locations included Philadelphia's City Hall and the old Eastern State Penitentiary.
The score to Law Abiding Citizen was composed by Brian Tyler, who recorded his score with a 52-piece ensemble of the Hollywood Studio Symphony at the Sony Scoring Stage with help from Kieron Charlesworth. The film also uses "Eminence Front" by The Who and "Engine No. 9" by Deftones on Clyde's iPod while he is eating his steak in his cell. While Clyde calls Darby to help him 'escape' the police after Ames' execution, "Bloodline" by Slayer is Darby's ringer. The tune at the end for closing credits is "Sin's A Good Man's Brother" by Grand Funk Railroad.
The premiere was held on November 15, 2009 at the Cineworld complex in Glasgow - hometown of Gerard Butler. Many British tabloids have labeled this event as the "Homecoming Premiere", in reference to the Homecoming Scotland celebrations.
Law Abiding Citizen received negative reviews from critics. Critics on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 25% score, with an average rating of 4.3/10 based on 155 reviews. The site's critical consensus states that "Unnecessarily violent and unflinchingly absurd, Law Abiding Citizen is plagued by subpar acting and a story that defies reason". In contrast, users on the site gave the film an average score of 75%.
In his review for the Chicago Sun Times, Roger Ebert said, "Law Abiding Citizen is the kind of movie you will like more at the time than in retrospect." He then went on to say, "Still, there's something to be said for a movie you like well enough at the time." Ebert rated the film 3 out of 4 stars.
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- "FOXX EARNS CITIZENSHIP WITH DARABONT". CHUD. Archived from the original on November 12, 2008. Retrieved October 9, 2008.
- "Law Abiding Citizen - Gerard Butler interview". IndieLondon. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
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- "Exclusive Clip, Contest for LAW ABIDING CITIZEN!". Fangoria.com. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
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- Roger Ebert (14 October 2009). "Law Abiding Citizen". rogerebert.com.
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