DIRECTED BY KURT WIMMER
STARRING: JAMIE FOXX, GERARD BUTLER, BRUCE McGILL, LESLIE BIBB, COLM MEANEY, REGINA HALL and VIOLA DAVIS
I have to admit that when I watched through the lengths of ‘Law-Abiding Citizen’, I couldn’t place Kurt Wimmer, its director, to a previous film. Now I know he was associated with the illustrious ‘the Recruit’, and the Christian Bale magnum opus ‘Equilibrium’, his history helping my dissection process even better. It is pretty obvious that Mr. Wimmer believes in the triumph of the man-God, perhaps even more than Dostoevsky did, and it comes with the excruciating price that he would go to any lengths to prove his worth. With his Herculean construct of Christian Bale’s character in ‘Equilibrium’, he was tolerable; maybe even flamboyant. But Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) simply falls flat.
I was drawn to compare this film to another dark, misguided thriller – David Fincher’s ‘Seven’. Something kept telling me that the murkiness of the plot and the incredible details of the plan in action, coupled with the helplessness of the hunting party I understood that I was to witness yet another debacle. Yet another case where the film proves to be too detailed, too labyrinthine for the writer/director to make ends meet in any sane way possible. With ‘Seven’, he had an option in the climax. In this film, we have an option – to tolerate it and go ahead to watch it, or to humbly make our exits to leave it rot by itself, witness a cruel disintegration of intense action to childish nothingness. I guess that’s what happens to your John Doe when you decide to up his game a little.
By all means, the film is exciting. It’s about 100 minutes of dilemma, of going along with the storyline, of the viewer being as clueless as the characters – you’re made to guess as the cards fall down hoping that somewhere down the line is the deuce or that maybe you’ve found the deuce and you’re waiting for an assertion. Well, that’s before the 20 minutes of torture to follow.
In a loose way, ‘Law-Abiding Citizen’ is a man’s struggle against the system, something that sparks off excitably in sequences as Clyde’s bail hearing, and in a criminally-underdone-overemphasized conversation between Nick (Jamie Foxx) and Sarah (Leslie Bibb) that doesn’t happen. To ask the ethical questions that the film asks is unfortunately detrimental to itself. Not to mention the fact that the revelation is childish fantasy, except that it would be a lot less bloodier if it actually were. And we’re thrown in the odd thrill or two, a couple of fears as to who’s going to be next and some worry lines regarding Nick’s family. Then of course, there’s the mysterious Chester as well.
This film, in short, has all contents for an on-the-dot action thriller, but definitely not enough direction for further specifics. The quintessential ‘howdunnit’ than the ‘whodunnit’, it has neither the political-charge, nor any amount of weight in the revelation to champion its cause. It’s a rather distorted depiction of Clyde himself – angry, misguided, delusional, half-crazy, and yet a tad too arrogant, thus reducing itself to mainstream nonsense than anything substantial.