You know you're in for it when a pair of thugs break into King Leonidas' ... er, Clyde Shelton's (Gerard Butler) home and kill his wife and daughter quite graphically in the first two minutes of the movie.
Then a hotshot attorney, Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), who knows the law well enough to know that you apparently have to bend over backwards to get any real justice, makes a deal with the actual killer to send his accomplice to death row. But fortunately, Shelton is a man who plans. If he wasn't, the movie would only have been about ten minutes long.
We jump ahead ten years later to the execution of the guy who didn't actually kill anyone that Rice sent to death row. Unfortunately, somebody messed something up so he dies worse than the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark .
Shelton then kidnaps the real murderer and cuts him into 23 pieces. When you successfully get away with carving a dude up like a Thanksgiving Turkey, that should make the point well enough. However, Gerard Butler has penchant for playing absurdly violent men, and, well... here we are. The cops, including Colm Meany, are helpless due to some legal weirdness. Next, he kills the attorney who got the actual murderer off, you know the one he ALREADY killed into little pieces.Then he kills another 10 people with a mix of carbombs and a nifty remote-controlled combat robot.
Let's just recap real quick: After killing the ONLY two people involved in killing his family, Shelton kills almost a dozen other people to make the point that the legal system is broken. This is kind of like burning a cross on your lawn to make the Ku Klux Klan look bad.
The movie is beautifully shot throughout, mostly on location in the wonderful (and appropriately crime-ridden) city of Philadelphia, by director F. Gary Gray who also gave us the classic Friday and the superficially cerebral The Negotiator among other films.
Law Abiding Citizen is one those movies that's sure to spark a conversation about the nature of vigilantism, before you realize you just watched a film where the guy from Bait was the chewy moral center. You could just easily pair this off with another super-violent Gerard Butler film, or you could throw the audience a curve ball and show them P.S. I Love You , one of the sappier movies in recent years.