Saturday, October 17, 2009
'Citizen' Crashes and Splatters, Though Remains a Pedestrian
In last year's notable, high-flying and menacing summer blockbuster 'The Dark Knight', Heath Ledger's notorious Joker sat calmly behind "Gordon's cage" as the rest of the world fell apart from his carefully planned and ironically anarchic orchestration of choas---a confliction of morals playing against the character's ideals that contributed significantly to the theatrical ingenuity of the film. Nolan, once again, did it right. He was able to give the Batman franchise justice by instilling a sense of intense realism into the tone of the films.
It is not strange that another film---one that tries but utterly fails to do the same---has a realistic setting, but cannot viably or purposefully attain a sense of direction.
In F. Gary Gray's 'Law Abiding Citizen,' Gerard Butler plays Clyde Shelton, a man who helplessly witnesses the murder of his wife and child and, we must note, conveniently happens to be an inventor with an off-screen influence. When the men responsible get off easy, Shelton desperately adopts the perception concerning judicial law as a broken manipulative system. Ten years later, Butler's character comes back with deadly experience and vengeance into the court room scene to try to bring down the system on top of his lawyer, played stoically by Jamie Foxx. The two characters dubiously face off on-screen, verbally sparring and physically lashing until the ending credits: Butler with his explosively disruptive gadgets and Foxx with his subtle, albeit determined, political nuances.
Let's get this out if the way: the film is not bad. But thematically, it simply does not delve much into character. Given that there is intense emotion and dedicated drive in Butler's character, his plotting was never captured on-screen and his explosive climaxes occurred much too fast and numerously to adhere to a sane ideal. His influence was never aptly described, though vaguely by one of his accomplices: "If Shelton wants you dead, you're dead." Fair enough.
Then there is Jamie Foxx, who is a fantastic actor in films such as 'Ray' and 'Collateral', yet cannot shed much emotion in this role as a lawyer. Perhaps that's a verification in itself: what emotions do lawyers have? Though a human should show human emotion: his friends are dying all around him and if my memory serves correctly he does not shed much of a tear in this film. Foxx is an apt professional, but it would have been somewhat intriguing to see how another actor would have played the part if not in the same manner.
'Law Abiding Citizen' has some great and carefully choreographed scenes, particularly one that oozes with dark humor and violent wit (if anyone knows the one involving a certain judge and a cell phone...). The plot, while ambiguous, takes its interesting twists and turns and F. Gary Gray certainly knows how to utilize a camera. The thematic purpose of the film, while jumbled, effectively questions the stances of 'good people' and 'bad people'. But 'Citizen' does not contribute much of anything to its judiciously vengeful genre. In this respect, the film is no 'Dark Knight', though it thematically tries to be.
Go into this film with low expectations, perhaps. You will certainly come out with more than you expected. Just try to avoid having to give an extensive explanation of the plot.
'Law Abiding Citizen'-