LAW ABIDING CITIZEN. Even in “just ok” thriller Butler never disappoint

It’s not often that I get so excited about a movie after watching its trailer for the first time…

Maciej Poleszak

3 February 2024

LAW ABIDING CITIZEN. Even in "just ok" thriller Butler never disappoint

…, to the point where I almost count the hours until the screening for which my reserved tickets are patiently waiting at the cinema box office. Even rarer is the case when I expect a weak film, one that promises to be an overcomplicated thriller with a completely absurd screenplay. However, against all common sense, logic, and doctor’s recommendations, I fell in love with the trailer for Law Abiding Citizen not from… no, not from the first seconds, but from the words uttered by the mayor: ‘We have him locked up, and he’s still killing people?’ At this moment, a warning light would have lit up in the head of any normal viewer. However, I felt that before my eyes, another representative of the elite genre ‘so bad it’s good’ was emerging. So, I adjusted my mood accordingly and embarked on a journey to the cinema to satisfy my unusual expectations. And this is how it went…

Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is a talented engineer who loses his wife and daughter in a robbery, and he himself is injured. The criminals are caught, and a relentlessly ambitious lawyer, Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), fights for their conviction. Fearing failure in the courtroom, he decides, against Clyde’s will, to make a deal with one of the killers, arranging to lessen the sentence by providing testimony against the other. This ensures a victory for the prosecutor that he can proudly add to his statistics to boast about nearly one hundred percent effectiveness. Meanwhile, the harmed and deceived husband and father goes into hiding for ten years, not only preparing a plan for revenge but also delivering a message to the world. Law Abiding Citizen

Law Abiding Citizen Gerard Butler

So, Butler becomes another movie murderer who, through his actions, aims to change human mentality and rectify the mistakes of those in power. In Law Abiding Citizen, he takes on the American justice system, pointing out its flaws and heartlessness. Stop! What is that word that appeared in the depths of my skull and came to the tip of my tongue? Guiding thought? Message? No, certainly not that! The film might not accelerate into the realm of ‘so good it’s good’ and remain in the realm of ‘so bad… that words fail.’ Fortunately, someone behind the camera quickly comes to their senses and puts on film a few scenes filled with vividly B-movie dialogues, in which Butler’s character announces events on an apocalyptic scale, smirking after each completed sentence.

Law Abiding Citizen Gerard Butler

At this point, there’s a plot twist in the review. It turns out that the movie falls short of the initial expectations. In fact, it can even be watched without pain after each terrible dialogue (though they are sparse), without grabbing one’s head after each plot twist (because, although lacking in creativity and credibility, they fall just short of being complete nonsense), and even without resorting to organic compounds produced by the fermentation process, which usually cast any Hollywood production in a slightly more favorable light.

Law Abiding Citizen Jamie Foxx Bruce McGill

The fact that Law Abiding Citizen can be watched does not mean, of course, that it instantly becomes good, but a few elements may be likable. It might be likable, for example… Gerard Butler, who constantly tries something new, jumping from pseudo-historical brawls through comedies to a gangster film made by Guy Ritchie (by the way – the guy has a bit of a tough time, of course, Butler, not Ritchie, because Leonidas from 300 and ‘This is Sparta!’ will haunt him for the rest of his life). Whether these attempts were successful or not is another matter, but as an uncompromising, ready-for-anything tough guy who takes punches to the face almost without blinking an eye and treats his opponent with a one-liner and the aforementioned smirk after each encounter – he’s perfect. I’m even willing to risk saying that the scene where he acts as his own defense attorney in court is really good, without any ‘buts,’ ‘considering,’ or ‘taking into account.’

Law Abiding Citizen Gerard Butler

And everything would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that Law Abiding Citizen has to end, and the plot threads have to come together. The issue of the incompetence of the courts and the choice of the lesser evil at any cost, raised at the beginning and during the film, fades with time, and the ending presented to us, depicting the internal transformation of one person, is disappointingly clichéd. Even the screenplay trick at the end, moving one of the characters from place to place at a speed that seems to suggest he manipulated time and space, becomes less relevant. For these reasons, Law Abiding Citizen falls into the category of ‘just okay.’ This doesn’t change the fact that I simply like Butler, and for him, the rating goes up by one notch.