Sunday, 27 June 2010

Gerard Butler is Clyde Shelton in Law Abiding Citizen (dir F Gary Gray, 2009), a crime thriller and revenge fantasy in which Shelton gets back at all of those who were implicit in the light sentence given to the killer of his wife and daughter.

Shelton is an interesting character. He's a tinkerer, engineer, inventor. But he's also an associate of spies and secret government agencies who makes death possible in impossible situations. As one spook declares, "If Clyde wants you dead, you're dead."

Playing opposite Butler is Jamie Foxx as Nick Rice, a Philadelphia assistant district attorney. Rice is heavily involved in the token sentence the killer receives, but he's immediately spared vengeance. Shelton wants to teach him not to deal with murderers. It's a lesson Raice learns well as, one after the other, his colleagues and associates are wiped out by Shelton's high-tech arsenal.

But the film is also interesting in terms of the post-9/11 era of anti-terror actions by the US government. Unable to stop Shelton's relentless motion, the governor invokes the Homeland Security Act in order to stop him. Anything is legitimate, she says. Shelton is to be dealt with as if he has no rights.

Given the one-sided nature of the conflict, the implication is that Iraqi insurgents were justified in using violence to offset the injustice meted out to them. There's no explicit articulation of this theory, but the way the story unfolds in the movie makes it easy to make the connection.

There's a lot of cool equipment in this film, and the violence is pretty tame compared to what's available in a lot of horror movies. The highly unpleasant murders at the start of the film constitute the most gruesome moment, so those without a high tolerance of violence need not worry. The film is well-made and highly watchable.

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