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Blu-ray Review: 'Law Abiding Citizen'
Date: 02/16/2010
Author: BC
Now in stores everywhere from Overture Films/Anchor Bay Entertainment is the Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler starrer Law Abiding Citizen, which begins when home invaders kill Clyde Shelton's wife and daughter that leads him on a path to revenge. Beyond the break you'll find BC's review of the blu-ray release.

It's kind of ironic that Law Abiding Citizen came out in October and did pretty big business while Saw VI tanked, because the film reminded this viewer of Twisted's landmark franchise on more than one occasion. Both films concern a man who can seemingly control peoples' lives (and deaths) despite being incapacitated in some way, using "tinkered" machinery of his own design to get back at people who wronged him in some roundabout way. Both of them have abandoned warehouse control rooms with a lot of computers and monitors and test "traps" strewn about all over. Hell, even the friggin font is the same during the end credits!

But Law Abiding Citizen is, of course, a "serious, classy" movie, because it has Oscar winner Jamie Foxx and rising star Gerard Butler as its leads instead of B movie veterans, so the producers and such will probably scoff at the idea of being compared to the Saw films. But without that comparison, I wouldn't be here telling you to check the film out, would I? Because while it's not a horror film, it's certainly a gory one, and fans of Saw's twists and morally gray protagonists should definitely get a kick out of F. Gary Gray's film.

Gray made one of the all time best "Hero does something crazy to prove a point" movies, 1998's Negotiator, and there are some base similarities to that film here alongside the Saw-ish stuff. After the guy who killed his wife and daughter essentially goes free (his accomplice gets lethal injection) thanks to some red-tape manuevering by Foxx, Butler decides to take matters into his own hands, but with a twist. There's only one guy to get revenge on (and man does he ever!) for the actual murders, but Butler wants to get back at the flawed legal system that allowed the guy to go free in the first place. After being arrested for killing the murderer, Butler's real game begins - from behind bars, he manages to orchestrate a series of killings - the other lawyer, the judge, etc., all the while toying with Foxx's character, more or less trying to teach him a lesson that he may learn too late.

Now, Gray and co. could have done this as a PG-13 thriller, killing people off-screen or with less-graphic means (gas or whatever). But no, this movie is gorier than 75% of the horror movies I've seen in the past year or so. Dismemberment, arterial spray, exploded heads, you name it - it's here. The graphic killings give the film a bit of a surprising pulp-y feel, which turns out to be for its benefit, as it will likely distract you away from the various plot holes that are inherent to the "puppet master" type of movie plot.

For example, early in the film, the murderer is told to run toward a certain police car and get in, which will allow him to escape (however, Butler is the one in the car, pretending to be a police officer). But the real police were all on the guy's tail, so in order for his plan to work, the guy would have HAD to elude capture from several trained police officers, who would also then (for some reason) have to give up the chase. They'd also have to not bother checking in with the officer that Butler incapacitates for a few hours while he does his thing. Stuff like that seems a bit silly, but so do the kill scenes, so it evens out; it's a message movie buried inside a revenge porn.

It is kept from being truly great, however, by the fact that Butler loses most of the audience's sympathy pretty early on, after he kills his cellmate in order to be transfered to solitary confinement (part of his plan). The guy was just some petty thief or something, and had nothing to do with the issues that got Butler there in the first place, so I lost a lot of my support for what he was doing. In Negotiator, Sam Jackson's character broke laws and held hostages, but never did anything truly reprehensible - you were on his side 100%. Here, Butler comes off more like, well, Jigsaw - he's essentially right, but he's doing it the wrong way. And at least Jigsaw gives folks the choice.

Anchor Bay/Overture's Blu-Ray looks and sounds great (though I have noticed that they have stopped offering uncompressed sound on their Blus - I hope this is not going to be a common occurrence). DP Jonathan Sela (Midnight Meat Train) shot the film with lots of noir touches - high contrast, shadows, muted colors - and it all looks flawless on AB's usual great transfer. Extras are a bit slim though - there's a really short piece about the meaning behind some of the legal terms that get tossed around, and then a pretty standard making of piece (where we learn that Butler was originally going to play the lawyer until Foxx became interested in the project). A few VFX "start to finish" featurettes are also included, where we watch what was really filmed and then what CG elements were layered in for the final result. Part of an alternate ending that was apparently never shot is also included in animated form. There is also a 2nd disc with the theatrical cut of the film (this unrated director's cut runs 1 min longer), however as I didn't see the film in theaters I am not sure what changes were made, nor do I have the desire to rewatch the film again just yet. Not sure why they didn't simply use a branching feature in order to include both versions on one disc, but I guess "Two Disc Edition!" sounds a lot more enticing.

So again, it's not a horror film, but it's got more than a few similarities to the better Saw films (1, 3, and 6) and with just as much (if not more) splatter and gore. Add in some great lead actors (not to mention a fun supporting cast, including more Midnight Meat Train vets: Leslie Bibb and Roger Bart) and a flawless visual transfer, and you got yourself a great Saturday night movie option.

Rating: 4/5
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