Law Abiding Citizen

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Law Abiding Citizen
Two men, one looking to the right. Below another man looking to the left.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byF. Gary Gray
Produced by
Written byKurt Wimmer
Music byBrian Tyler
CinematographyJonathan Sela
Edited byTariq Anwar
The Film Department
Distributed byOverture Films
Release date
  • October 16, 2009 (2009-10-16)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$53 million[1]
Box office$126.7 million[2]

Law Abiding Citizen is a 2009 American action thriller film[3] directed by F. Gary Gray from a screenplay written by Kurt Wimmer. It stars Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx and takes place in Philadelphia, telling the story of a man driven to seek justice while targeting not only his family's killer but also those who have supported a corrupt criminal justice system, intending to assassinate anyone supporting the 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 home invasion in Philadelphia, Clarence Darby (Stolte) rapes and kills the wife of Clyde Shelton (Butler) and then proceeds to kill their young daughter. Prosecuting Attorney Nick Rice (Foxx) is unable to securely convict Darby. Unwilling to take a chance on lowering his high conviction rate, he makes a deal with Darby, who pleads guilty to a lesser charge and receives a reduced sentence in exchange for testifying against his accomplice, Rupert Ames (Stewart); Ames only intended to steal goods from Shelton and flee, and was unaware of Darby's plan to rape and kill Shelton's wife and daughter. Ames is convicted and sentenced to death, while Darby is released after a few years. Clyde feels betrayed by Rice's actions and the justice system.

Ten years later, Ames is executed. Unknown to the prosecutors and witnesses, the drug usually used has been replaced with an anticonvulsant, causing Ames to die painfully. Evidence implicates Darby. An anonymous caller alerts Darby as the police draw near and directs him to a remote location. Clyde, disguised as a police officer, reveals himself as the caller and paralyzes Darby with tetrodotoxin. He straps Darby to a table and video records himself dismembering Darby. When Darby's remains are found, evidence ties his death to Clyde. Clyde willingly surrenders and goes to prison.

Rice learns his wife and daughter have been sent the dismemberment video and are traumatized by it. He initially refuses a plea bargain with Clyde, but District Attorney Jonas Cantrell orders Rice to make a deal. Clyde demands a new bed in his cell in exchange for a "confession." In court, Clyde represents himself and successfully argues he should be granted bail, then berates the judge for accepting the legal precedent he cited, believing her too easily convinced, and too eager to let madmen and murderers back on the street. The judge denies bail to Clyde, and cites him for contempt of court.

Clyde demands an elaborate steak lunch and a music player be delivered to his cell by a specific time, in return for telling where to find Darby's lawyer, who was reported missing. Rice agrees, though the lunch is delayed by a few minutes by the warden's security measures. Once he has his meal, which he shares with a cellmate, Clyde provides a set of coordinates where Rice and the others find Darby's lawyer, buried alive but suffocated by time-mechanized materials while Clyde's lunch was delayed. As loud music plays in Clyde's cell, he proceeds to kill his cellmate with the bone of his steak, forcing the warden to secure him in solitary confinement.

Cantrell arranges a meeting with a CIA contact and brings Rice. They learn Clyde previously worked with the agency, creating imaginative assassination devices and orchestrated intricate lethal tactics against nearly impossible targets. They are warned Clyde can kill anyone anytime he wishes. During a meeting with Rice and Cantrell, the judge dies by a gunshot while answering her phone. Clyde demands all charges against him be dropped or he will "kill everyone". Rice takes precautionary measures instead. After Clyde's deadline passes, a number of Rice's assistants die from car bombs. Rice meets with Clyde in private and beats him. Clyde defiantly tells Rice that he is just beginning to destroy the system and all who believe in it. Leaving the funeral of a colleague, Cantrell is killed by a weaponized bomb disposal robot. The mayor puts the city on lockdown and promotes Rice to acting District Attorney.

Rice learns that Clyde owns an auto garage near the prison. A tunnel leads to a cache of guns, disguises, and other equipment below the solitary confinement cells, with secret entrances to each cell. He and Police Detective Dunnigan realize that Clyde wanted to be in solitary confinement all along; this allows him to easily leave the prison without detection, carry out his pre-meditated murders while misleading the police, who have assumed his murders to have been the work of accomplices. Evidence points to Clyde's next target, City Hall, where the mayor is holding an emergency meeting. Rice and his men cannot find Clyde but discover evidence pointing to a cell-phone-activated suitcase bomb in the room directly below the meeting.

Clyde returns to his cell. He is surprised to find Rice waiting for him. Clyde suggests another deal, but Rice says he no longer makes deals with murderers, thanking Clyde for teaching him that. Rice warns him to not do anything he will regret, but Clyde's cell phone is ready to be dialed to activate the City Hall bomb. When Clyde dials the phone, Rice leaves immediately. Clyde realizes too late that Rice has moved the bomb to his cell, which is now sealed. Clyde holds his daughter's bracelet, accepting his fate as the bomb explodes.

The epilogue shows Rice watching his daughter in a musical stage performance, an activity for which he previously had difficulty finding time.



Gerard Butler was initially signed on to play the prosecuting attorney, while Jamie Foxx was the criminal mastermind operating from inside prison,[4] a reversal of their roles in the final version.


Filming began in August 2008 and took place in and around Philadelphia. Filming locations included Philadelphia's City Hall and the now closed Holmesburg Prison. Holmesburg's "Thunderdome command center" is quite evident in the movie.

The film was edited after being threatened with an NC-17 rating for violence,[5] with the full version released unrated on Blu-ray.


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.[6] 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 film was released theatrically on October 16, 2009.[7] The first theatrical trailer was released on August 14, 2009, and was attached to District 9.[8]

The premiere was held on November 15, 2009, at the Cineworld complex in Glasgow, Butler's home town. Many British tabloids labeled the event as the "Homecoming Premiere", in reference to the Homecoming Scotland 2009 celebrations.[9]


The film took second place in its opening weekend, with $21,039,502, behind Where the Wild Things Are. It went on to gross $126.6 million in total worldwide.[10]

Law Abiding Citizen received generally negative reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 26% score, based on 159 reviews with an average rating of 4.3/10. The website's critical consensus states that "Unnecessarily violent and unflinchingly absurd, Law Abiding Citizen is plagued by subpar acting and a story that defies reason."[11] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 34 out of 100, based on 26 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[12]

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.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Distribution: A Love Story". Screen Daily. 2009-10-08.
  2. ^ "Law Abiding Citizen (2009)". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  3. ^ "Law Abiding Citizen". Vudu.
  4. ^ "FOXX EARNS CITIZENSHIP WITH DARABONT". CHUD. Archived from the original on November 12, 2008. Retrieved October 9, 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. ^ "Law Abiding Citizen - Gerard Butler interview". IndieLondon. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
  6. ^ Dan Goldwasser (September 11, 2009). "Brian Tyler scores Law Abiding Citizen". Retrieved September 11, 2009.
  7. ^ "Exclusive Clip, Contest for LAW ABIDING CITIZEN!". Archived from the original on 2009-10-16. Retrieved 2010-12-31. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  8. ^ "Law Abiding Citizen - Trailer". The Film Stage. Archived from the original on 2010-01-13. Retrieved 2010-12-31. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  9. ^ Dingwall, John (6 November 2009). "Exclusive: Scots star Gerard Butler ready for homecoming premiere - and hitting 40". The Daily Record. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
  10. ^ "Law Abiding Citizen (2009)". Box Office Mojo. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 31 December 2010.
  11. ^ "Law Abiding Citizen (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  12. ^ "Law Abiding Citizen Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  13. ^ Roger Ebert (14 October 2009). "Law Abiding Citizen".

External links[edit]