Review: Law Abiding Citizen

Posted by – November 2, 2009

Law Abiding Citizen Movie PosterWhen I first saw the preview for this film I immediately knew I wanted to see it.  This is not a normal occurrence for me, and I’m glad I had that instinct because I really did enjoy this film.  Well, that is until the first half was over.

The premise of the story is that a father gets rushed by two thugs in his home, who kill his wife and daughter in front of him.  The prosecutor offers a plea bargain so that one of them gets the death penalty and the other gets a maximum of five years despite the father’s pleas to send them both to trial.  The prosecutor declines as he wants to keep his conviction-rate high.

The father is understandably upset and decides to dispense his own justice and apparently uses his skills as a government black-ops “brain” to start killing all those that are guilty of dealing with murderers (all the while giving people an out, as to avoid the destruction).  For instance he’ll ask for something, and if it’s not met, he kills more people.

I’m not sure if I was supposed to be on the side of the father or not, but I really was up until about the middle of the movie.  He was trying to force people to look at the injustice of the criminal system and that something needs to be changed and he was prepared to break a few eggs to make an omelette.  I felt it was pretty justified even if extremely vengeful and murderous.

Overall I’d say to definitely watch this movie, while I did have a big problem with the ending and felt a little ripped-off by the plot direction change in the middle of the film, it was worth watching.  The acting was pretty great as I was never distracted at all by any of it and the characters seemed to be able to mingle with each other quite easily.  If for nothing else though this movie is a great film to have a discussion about, as it illustrates how screwed up the system is, and what it will take to fix it.

Now, for what I didn’t like (Really only useful to those who have seen the film):


So the problem I had with the movie starts when the father kills his cellmate in order to get into solitary confinement.  While I understand that this was required in order to get him into his cell in solitary to continue his acts of destruction I felt that it was a bit out of character and instantly made me dislike the father.

While I’m not sure whether I was supposed to identify with the father at all, I do think he was justified in wanting justice, and I don’t think it’s entirely wrong to act on your conviction to change the system.  Unfortunately not much in history has ever changed without violence and I can’t see this changing anytime soon. So overall I wanted to identify with the father, and wanted the movie to be a film about siding with the bad guy, and realizing that although it was terrorism, it was for the right reasons and partially if not fully justified.  To me it speaks volumes about how war and terrorism is NOT a black and white issue, and would have been quite good social commentary.

So once I was sort of put-off by his blatant murder of a presumably semi-innocent man (they never state what his cellmate did, for all we know it was tax evasion) I started to wonder if I was supposed to want him stopped.  While he did kill someone in cold blood that was totally not related to his plight, he was after-all still trying to change the system.

Once everything was wrapped up and they found out that the father was just tunneling out of prison, he didn’t seem like as much of a genius (except for the judge’s cell phone, that was totally unexpected and quite inventive).  This made me feel even worse about the character as I really did want to side with him even despite murdering his cellmate.  And from there they trick him into committing suicide as he knew he had to take out the officials at the meeting to get anyone to actually start to care about fixing the justice system.

So the father dies, and the lawyer goes to his daughter’s recital and the world is good again.  Except for the fact that the judicial system is still horribly broken, and despite the fact that the prosecutor won’t make deals with murderers anymore, nothing was really resolved.  I would ahve much prefered some alternate ending that would allow the system to be changed, even if it was just a weird emntion of congress discussing judicial branch reform and a massive overhaul of how the justice system works.

I don’t know, I was just really disappointed in the ending, and it seemed that the director and writer wanted to stray from the fact that terrorists have families and motives too.  They aren’t just non-descript people who just hate freedom.  Overall though, I felt that the first half of the movie helped fill that weird craving for brutal justice and revenge.  Sort of like going on a murderous rampage in Grand Theft Auto when you’re angry about something.  Then again maybe I’m just insane and ready to snap any day now.

Anybody else have any opinions on this?  I’d really like to hear them.

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