Law Abiding Citizen Review

Published 6 years ago by

Short Version: Law Abiding Citizen is a satisfying (and at times funny) revenge movie that unfortunately loses its way in the last 20 minutes.

law abiding citizen reviews Law Abiding Citizen Review
Screen Rant reviews Law Abiding Citizen

It seems like Law Abiding Citizen is one in a series of husband/father avenges the death/mistreatment of his family movies spawned by the success of Taken (next in line is the Mel Gibson-starring Edge of Darkness).

In this one we have Gerard Butler as Clyde Shelton, loving father and husband (established quite effectively in just the first couple of minutes of the film) up against Jamie Foxx as prosecutor Nick Rice in a game of psychological cat and mouse.

Clyde’s wife and very young daughter are brutally murdered (his wife, before his eyes) by a couple of burglars who break into his home. In order to guarantee that at least one of the perpetrators gets the death sentence, Nick cuts a plea bargain with the other, who will only serve five years. He does this without first consulting with Clyde, who doesn’t buy Nick’s argument of it being better to see some justice served rather than take the chance that both men go free. Within the first 10 minutes you’ll get the entire set up for the film.

Cut to 10 years later – Nick now has a 9 year old daughter and the death row inmate is about to be executed. What should be a standard death by injection goes horribly wrong in a scene that will probably have you cringing in your seat at least a little. Soon after the bad guy who only served five years gets put in a compromising position by Clyde – and he is going to have a very, very bad (last) day.

One thing leads to another and Nick determines that Clyde is the guy behind both deaths. In a scene that frankly makes no sense other than to show Gerard Butler’s naked butt, the cops capture him and take him in. It soon becomes clear that Clyde wanted more than revenge – he wants to expose the corrupt justice system where compromises are made and the letter of the law sometimes leads to injustice.

Murders of those involved in the plea deal continue to take place even with Clyde behind bars, where he makes a series of odd and interesting requests – all of which turn out to be made for very specific reasons. Of course the big mystery is how these things continue to happen despite the fact Clyde is behind bars – who is his accomplice? Unfortunately the longer this goes on, the bigger the shovel that is needed to dig out the answer to this question, and the solution is hard to swallow.

Gerard Butler basically chews the scenery and Jamie Foxx isn’t given a whole lot to do here other than look and act solemn.

The movie is very violent, at times quite funny (Gerard gets some great lines that had the audience laughing out loud) and has at least one scene that comes at you out of nowhere with a hell of a punch. I’m a big fan of this sort of film being a husband and father myself, and was really enjoying it up until about the final 20 minutes where it took a turn in a direction that ends up putting a big damper on the experience. The ending seals the deal and really left me pretty cold (unfortunately).

So while the ending is pretty unsatisfying, I had a lot of fun for most of the movie. So overall if you’re into this sort of film and you’re a fan of Gerard Butler and/or Jamie Foxx I recommend Law Abiding Citizen.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. Aww, that’s a little disappointing, the ending kind of makes it or breaks it sometimes for me, so it kind of sucks that you say the ending wasn’t good. Oh well, I’ll probably end up seeing it anyhow… Edge of Darkness looks crazy too, and Martin Campbell gives me some confidence in it…

  2. Vic, over at IMDB somebody said that it was a ripoff of The Dark Knight.
    The Jokers methods of murder.
    Just curious about your thoughts on this.

  3. @Gary

    I didn’t get that at all from the film.


  4. oh come now, it has Gerard “Butt”ler in it! it can’t be ALL that bad :D

  5. There truly are less and less movies that I feel warrant the $9.50 to see in the theater. I was hoping that this would be one of them. I’ll see it, but only after it’s released on Blu-Ray.

  6. Vic,
    Just an extreme reaction as I thought .

  7. NOT AS SPOILERIFIC AS THE REVIEW BUT–Just came home from the movie and it was EXCELLENT. Twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat and the scene with naked Gerry was worth the price of admission alone :-). However–the ending was not what I wanted and the biggest perpetrator of the worst crime gets off with his life intact. A little older, a little wiser perhaps, but it was a typical Hollywood eye for an eye of an ending. Even with that, it is well worth going to see.

  8. Not as spoilerific? Yet you talk about what actually happens in the end?? Alright…

  9. I did not give it away at all and when you see it you’ll find that true.

  10. Um, but you said someone stays alive, what if I was open to the possibility that everyone dies?

  11. I saw it.
    I pretty much feel the way about it Vic did.
    I would also give it 3 stars.
    I just emailed a friend this morning about how I thought a lot of what the Joker did in TDK was unexplained,
    he seemed too omnipotent.
    now I am not so sure If i want to know how the villains do what they do if it isnt more well thought out then this.
    The answer just led to more questions ,
    but still if you can stand the violence , a lot of it is entertaining .
    Go check it out.

  12. The movies was good. The end was BS. How does a “Brain” get caught by DA. He’s killed countless people and his line of work is to cover his tracks. Plus he would of definitely put those property under another name. I know enough about that “Line of Work” to know that those are the last people (Jamie Fox & the irish dude) on this planet that would of caught him.

  13. @ Ken J
    Everyone dies? Are you referring to ‘The Departed’ ^_^

    @ Gary
    There’s a line where one of the politicians, not sure what her official position was, but she was a black woman with power…anyway, she said something along the lines of ‘how can one man bring this city to its knees’ which seemed like a major TDK/joker reference, but other than that, no. The methods for killing didnt remind me of the joker at all

  14. @Aaron

    OMG, I’ve never seen The Departed yet! You jerk!! lol :-D

  15. lol ken if that were true youd be the jerk for waiting so long to see a classic

    shame shame

  16. There are many movies that I need to rent that I never had the chance to see… :-(

  17. I thought this movie was pretty decent. Kind of dragged along here and there, and some of Jamie’s dialogue sounded forced. Colm Meaney had absolutely nothing to do till the end which was kind of disappointing. I want to see Miles O’Brien do something more than walk around with Jamie Foxx!

    But overall, I didn’t think it was bad. It wasn’t as smart as Silence of the Lambs, and not as gruesome as the Saw films. But Gerard Butler really made it more enjoyable with his performance.

  18. I just saw the movie, thought it was pretty good, and vic, surprisingly, I disagree with you on the ending.


    I think it was appropriate that Nick doesn’t die and that Clyde does. Don’t get me wrong, torturing the two people responsible for the death of his wife and daughter, you won’t see me shedding any tears over them, they deserved it. But it got to a point where Clyde was going a bit too far, killing people who have no choice over the principles but are just people who do their job.

    And regarding Nick, I read that some people here think that he is the most guilty and should have been killed, but you know what, I don’t really blame him, I blame the system more. The Justice system does reward lawyers for their numbers, and it just breeds this “have to win” mentality over bringing justice. Now-a-days you see prosecutors lying almost as often as defense attorneys. Their motivation is often time no longer to uphold justice, but to simply win the case, regardless of if they really believe the person is guilty or not.

    Don’t worry, I’m not sympathizing with criminals and think that there are a bunch of innocent criminals behind bars, there are some but the majority of them are definitely guilty, it’s just the lawyers’ motivations that I’m putting into quesion. I also think all of these technicalities that let guilty criminals free should stop. That would result in less plea bargains too.

    Anyway, I saw Nick as being a morally gray character in the beginning, but by the end, I think he realized his mistakes, and by then, I didn’t really want him to die, I really didn’t want Sarah to die either, that was really sad, she seemed like such a good person… Jonas too, actually a lot of them seemed like pretty good people that didn’t deserve to die. It just seemed like after a while Clyde just started enjoying the power he had over everyone and became a sociopath. Basically, he went from a grieving father seeking justice and revenge to simply a murderer by the end of the movie.

    ****END SPOILERS*****

    I liked the movie, even the ending, I think I would have given it a higher score than Vic, 3.5 or even 4 out of 5. :-)

    That’s my opinion of the movie.

  19. I just saw the movie tonight, and while I see your point Vic. I also have to disagree about the ending and agree with Ken J up to a point. I don’t agree that Clyde was going down that road (power tripping, sociopath, etc) because you can see the disgust on his face killing the other people. I think you read it incorrectly. The impression I got, for instance, in killing the cell mate was that he was doing it out of necessity and you could see him go through “stomaching” what he had done after. He always did his job “remotely” or “from far away” never up close. So I didn’t see him as the type to go down that road.

    They mentioned that he was very calulating, skilled, and a “brain”. Basically someone who is trained to kill as his job. I got the feeling that he was the type to “do” his job well but he never enjoyed it. I also think his goal was to “teach” Nick a lesson that he would never forget and change him.

    Which he did, if you recall at the end Clyde said something like, so are you ready to bargain with me? And Nick plainly stated, No, I don’t bargain with killers.

    I think that last 15 to 20 minutes was what I was expecting. It seemed to me it was what the movie was driving towards. I don’t think Clyde planned on living through it either. I do think he was very surprised with what Nick came up with but was satisfied that he “got it” at the end. Just my impressions of the movie.

    I would have given a 4.5 as I throughly enjoyed the movie.

  20. SPOILER WARNING*********

    Does no one remember how they caught him? They used illegal tactics to catch him buy using those property records from Panama or wherever. What I find more head scratching is why Butler’s character did not make his bomb unmovable, if it was unmovable then Foxx and the other guy were boned and everyone was dead. Also how did Foxx and the other guy make it to the jail cell and place the bomb before Butler got back to the cell? Finally am I the only one who wanted Butler to live?

  21. @stpau1y

    The major complaint most people have about the film is the ending – poor choice on their part.


  22. While spending some “empty-theater” time this weekend (me and two other lost souls apparently, wow) I saw this film and – I guess it makes up for Gamer at least.

    I also got a lot out of talking about what we saw at the end with a friend recently who at least had “fixes” for the questions I saw. I’ll wait for some more detailed rantings until after this movie goes away in the theater, but even the rather outrageous ending can be explained away with the right mind. The problem is folks:

    ENDINGS SHOULDN’T need to be be explained :)

    More soon as the three people in the theater becomes none and this movie disappears like the common sense 3/4 of the way through it.

  23. Saw the film yesterday. It was decent. I was surprised the F. Gary Gray directed this.

  24. I saw the movie. It started out gripping, then lead to interesting,then I became anxious, and it ended with a “Carrie like” ending.

  25. Loved the first 80% of the movie that was so annoyed with the ending that I am online searching for someone to explain it to me in a satisfying way! (no such luck)

    I wanted Butler to live. They showed his countless studies of law books, I was expecting him to somehow argue his case and get off scott free and remain a “law abiding citizen” even after these crimes.

    ie) how could he be blamed for committing murder while locked up in solitary – who can prove that in court

    I agree, the bomb moved from the location to his jail cell pretty damn quickly, I guess the bomb technician also knew how to teleport.

    With a different ending, this woulda been one of my favorites, isntead, I’ll just play keep playing my xbox and never watch it again. : -)

    • Well, you did realize that one of the cops was Colm Meaney, right? For those who do not know. He played O’Brian on Star Trek, The Next Generation (the teleporter operator) LOL

      • Ahhh, I should have read this response earlier. It makes sense now.

  26. I don’t think he deserved to live. He was willing to kill a room full of people just to satisfy his own twisted vision of justice. The guy got caught up in his own powertrip after a while.

    I agree with his dislike of our justice system and I 100% agree with him murdering the two murderers. But as much as I dislike bottom feeding scum suckers like defense lawyers or activist judges willing to let criminals go, I don’t think they deserve to die. That’s a bit much. Although I did enjoy the ways he killed people, but there were a lot of people that he murdered that really didn’t do anything wrong…

  27. i’ve watched the movie twice cuz i like the story but i was also expecting a better ending


    but here’s how i see the ending (to ease the pain of having an unsatisfying ending) Clyde’s purpose was to teach Nick a lesson in a way that he’ll surely change and to put a stop to the corrupt justice system, not vengeance at all (for the innocents who he killed) & at the end Nick learned what all it is about, though Clyde died he was ready for it, he was holding the bracelet his daughter gave him,waiting to be reunited with his family, Nick finally attends his’ daughter’s recital, and at this last scene, Nick (oscar winner Foxx acted this ending nicely) became appreciative & understood what Clyde was voicing out, you can read Nick’s lips say “Thank You” at the very last scene.

  28. In my opinion the ending was just what you can imagine from an Hollywood film. He got ‘what he deserve’ and most people leave the theater satisfied.

    However I was not satisfy by the ending, the “unknown source” gave the attorney a way to catch him. they couldn’t think any better way that leaving a big hole in the story?

    Moving the bomb in the cell was genius too.. but when you think about it he had a big head start (by the way how he got out running with a bomb without the security nutocicing anything and not asking question? )

    Anyway in my opinion a good film with a BS ending