(not strictly a horror film, but it really should be posted here as it couldn't possibly exist without them...)
The completist in me demanded that I see LAW-ABIDING CITIZEN. Sure, I've been chronicling each and every SAW film, but well before that I was on the trail of all things DEATH WISH (from the Brian Garfield novels to the Charles Bronson movies and virtually every variant, spinoff and fever dream thus inspired). So really, if someone tosses off a 'high concept' summary such as "DEATH WISH meets SAW," I really have to check it out.
Okay. Gerard Butler's wife and daughter are murdered in the course of a home invasion robbery (the film spares us the details where the little girl is concerned, but that's about it). Prosecutor Jamie Foxx cuts a 'deal' wherein one of the bad guys goes to death row, but the one who actually did the killing gets off with a three-year sentence. Gerard Butler is, understandably, not happy about this.
"Let the game begin?" Not quite, but ten years later, terrible things happen to the perpetrators, with only one obvious suspect in evidence. Butler is happy to surrender to the police, but it soon becomes clear that he's nowhere near done, and even a solitary prison cell seems incapable of preventing him from rendering "justice" ("Vengeance? Do you think this is VENGEANCE?") on the whole lousy, stinking system that let him down...
OKAAAAYYYY. We have audience manipulation at its most vulgar and blatant--but also frequently at its most effective. Gerard Butler gets a lot more to do here than he did in GAMER and he takes full advantage of the center stage. Jamie Foxx, of course, is given a wife and young daughter of his own (good grief, he's never home, he constantly misses her recitals, etc.--you've NEVER seen such a device deployed en route to a character's redemption, have you?), but at least the film doesn't go so far as to endanger THIS child's life (though she DOES get a nasty surprise in the mail).
It's the machinations themselves that invoke the SAW series, but Butler, while a master manipulator, is no 'hands-off' Jigsaw type. You think the film could never recover its energy or intensity after the tour de force in which he has his family's murderer exactly where he wants him, but there are at least two gory AND superbly shocking/startling setpieces awaiting the viewer. Make NO mistake, this is one of the more extreme 'bloodbath' movies we've had all year.
Oh, and it ALSO takes a page from another recent (surprise) hit, specifically TAKEN, in that the bad guys messed with the family of a man whom, unbeknownst to all, had "mad skillz." And how did he acquire these talents? Well, that's what ultimately takes LAW-ABIDING CITIZEN out of the horror genre and causes the film to become a Homeland Security thriller as Philadelphia itself threatens to fall under siege... yeah, the whole movie gets pretty damn out of control, I'd have to say.
However, for the most part, it works, and it would be wrong of me not to say so. It's shameless, it's shocking, it's cliched... but it works. There you go.
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