** out of 5
Rated R for strong bloody brutal violence and torture, a scene of rape, and pervasive language.
In coming up with the idea for Kurt Wimmer’s latest screenplay offering, apparently he sat down for a triple feature consisting of “Law & Order,” “The Dark Knight” and any of the first five “Saw” films. But when a screenwriter’s only good movie is the Christian Bale starring “Equilibrium” maybe studios should start second guessing his writing duties.
Aside from that single fun flick, which graced the cinematic world the term “gun kata,” he has also brought us some pretty abysmal offerings. After his first feature outing, the Barbarian Brothers abomination “Double Trouble,” he managed to lay low but kept up his resume with contributions to the completely-missed-the-point Michael Crichton adaptation “Sphere” and “The Thomas Crown Affair” which one can’t help but think was completely rewritten by Leslie Dixon and helped even more so by its cast and director.
The already mentioned “Equilibrium” is by far Wimmer’s one shining example of star power coming together with some cool direction and a great idea. One would think after watching this that maybe he should direct his own work but even that wasn’t a great idea since this was followed up with “Ultraviolet.” In between he managed to spit out the Colin Farrell, Al Pacino thriller “The Recruit.”
Director F. Gary Gray (try typing that ten times fast) is no better than Wimmer. With a few crowd pleasers such as “Friday,” “Set It Off” and “The Italian Job” at least he has a few good films to his oeuvre. But most of the time his movies wind up being far too silly in their execution and take themselves way too seriously for how ridiculous the plots are. These films would consist of both “The Negotiator” and “A Man Apart.”
The worst film in his arsenal is one of the worst sequels imaginable, “Be Cool.” How you can take such a great cast consisting of John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Cedric the Entertainer, Andre Benjamin, Harvey Keitel, Dwayne Johnson, Danny Devito and James Woods in an Elmore Leonard adaptation and turn it into the resulting suckfest was quite an accomplishment. Not to mention that it was supposed to be a reunion of sorts for Travolta and Thurman last seen together in “Pulp Fiction.”
How entertaining “The Italian Job” was had to be a complete fluke. Even “Friday” and “Set It Off” weren’t what you would call really good movies. “The Italian Job” wasn’t even what one could call great either but it took a fun idea, based on the original film, cobbled together a great cast and let the Mini Cooper’s cruise the movie to box office gold.
In “Law Abiding Citizen,” Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is just that. He sits at home building machines, playing with his daughter and appears to have a happy marriage with his wife. Unfortunately, the family is ambushed one night in a home invasion. His wife is raped and murdered in front of their daughter whom said rapist, Clarence Darby (Christian Stolte) then murders as well and Clyde is seemingly left for dead.
Darby had an accomplice that night and to get himself a bargaining deal he plays nice with Assistant District Attorney Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx). Darby gets three to five years while his ratted out accomplice winds up getting the death sentence. Ten years later Clyde can’t come to terms with the fact that justice is far from served and decides to take matters into his own hands and manages to kill both the accomplice and Darby in a very Jigsaw-like manner.
After Clyde is arrested and Nick tries to squeeze out a confession, Clyde offers his own bargaining chip which triggers a string of events where anyone involved with the original case begins to die. Everything from car bombs to booby-trapped cell phones come into play in what Clyde assures Nick will wind up being “biblical” as he plans to bring the entire justice system to its knees.
Apparently when a man in prison is systematically killing off personal offenders the whole city feels the need to shut down. In one scene it is hilariously explained that the public have ceased leaving their homes and children are afraid to attend school. How any of what Clyde has managed to pull off affects the general public is beyond me yet is made such a plot point that it is one of the movie’s most unintentionally hilarious moments (aside from the booby-trapped cell phone).
With a script blueprinted out of the most ridiculous scenarios and plot holes that flat out make no sense it appears as if everyone was looking for something to do to pass some time. Gerard Butler’s Clyde character remains the man you route for continually right up until the end when the film completely belly flops into the most asinine yet anti-climatic finale seen in a thriller in quite some time.
When an audience wants Clyde to pull off his stunts and possibly win by killing off Foxx’s Nick you know something isn’t working. Not to mention that Foxx is so unlikeable here yet seems to be playing himself that he is quickly turning into the new Tom Cruise by turning in such a lame performance he’s unintentionally playing what could have been one of his “In Living Color” characters. Well Mr. Foxx, it may not have been “your” character who coined this phrase but “homey don’t play that” and you need to find a new shtick.