Reviewed by: Raphael Vera
About murder in the Bible
REVENGE—Love replaces hatred—former israeli soldier and an ex-PLO fighter prove peace is possible-but only with Jesus
Anger in the Bible
Lawyers in the Bible
Death in the Bible
Eternal death in the Bible
FEAR, Anxiety and Worry… What does the Bible say? Answer
VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer
|Featuring:||Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx, Viola Davis, Leslie Bibb, Michael Gambon, Bruce McGill, Colm Meaney, Regina Hall, more »|
|Director:||F. Gary Gray|
|Producer:||The Film Department, Gerard Butler, Lucas Foster, Dave Gare, Mark Gill, Michael Goguen, Robert Katz, Neil Sacker, Alan Siegel, Ian Watermeier, Jeff G. Waxman, Kurt Wimmer|
“Justice at any cost.”
Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is enjoying family time with his wife and daughter when their home is abruptly invaded, and all are bound, gagged, stabbed and then left for dead. Clyde is the only survivor.
The young hotshot prosecutor, Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), enters a plea agreement that sentences one of the two killers to death row and the other to just a few years. Nicks boss Jonas, the District Attorney (Bruce McGill), had warned him that he first needed to explain the ‘deal’ to the grieving father. Clyde’s disapproval of our flawed justice system sets the stage for what will follow.
Ten years later, both criminals are brought to a gruesome and painful end, not by the Philadelphia criminal justice system but by Clyde. Clyde is soon arrested, but his lack of surprise and acceptance makes one suspect that even his arrest is just part of a bigger plan.
Amazingly, from behind bars Clyde is able to continue systematically eliminating both those who were a part of the original miscarriage of justice, as well anyone who now stands in his way, all the while still taking the time to point out to us how our system fails to dispense ‘real’ justice every day.
The violence is intense and ranges from implied to graphic, including a horrific stabbing scene in jail. The rape is not strictly shown, and though the camera does cut away, there is little doubt as to what is taking place, in order to make it a gut wrenching experience. Another scene concerns the sawing of a living person’s body parts, that again takes place off camera and is later shockingly repeated, via DVD, in front of a child.
There are two scenes of nudity, the first focused on the semi-nude form of a prostitute in the killer’s apartment, and the second is Clyde’s backside as he strips completely before his capture.
The language is very foul, with over 30 uses of the ‘F’ word staple, along with variations of the slurs/curses ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘S’ most common in ‘R’ rated movies. The Lord’s name is taken in vain on several occasions and is never said in either praise or thanks.
You would think that Clyde had purposely assumed the role of God, and you would be right. From his vantage point, there is no one to correct these wrongs, and, in referencing to what he has planned, he says “It’s gonna be biblical.” The film is steeped in existentialism as God does not appear to play a role in anyone’s life.
At one point, the Mayor of Philadelphia and Nick are arguing over the situation when she stops and asks for a Bible. Were they actually going to turn to the Word of God for guidance? No, she needed it for a ‘swearing-in’ of office. There, in a nutshell, was both the problem and the answer. It was right in front of them, and they didn’t realize it. While our laws are undeniably based on Judeo-Christian values and precepts, we have, in the practice of law, devolved our system to the point where almost anything can be justified, or defended, and, in the process, many treat God’s book as just another prop.
The prosecutor, Nick, is all about advancing his career, and a near perfect conviction rate is key to this. He cannot comprehend the truth which Jesus spoke of when he said “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
In a particularly telling scene, Jonas, contemplating the system and their hand in bargaining with killers, asks if ‘we brought this on ourselves.’ Nick quickly responds, “Absolutely not.” Nick’s pride prevents him from accepting the truth, and as the apostle Peter writes,
The criminals that started this drama are utterly reprehensible and portray the violent extreme of so many in this fallen world who “…live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on Earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19).
Vengeance is the constant throughout the movie, and the consequences are a lesson that, sadly, is not learned by film’s end by even the prosecutor. We, as Christians, should know better than these characters, for God’s word instructs us,
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
The movie’s pacing was well done. The acting was only fair, due no doubt to the one dimensional script, as we have seen better from both Foxx and Butler. A higher than normal amount of “suspension of belief” is required from the audience in order to accept both Clyde’s incredible talents in mayhem and destruction and how far he goes to extract his “justice at any cost.” It should also be noted that, remarkably, there are no good guys in this movie.
Yes, the film is at times very exciting and suspenseful, and the audience can’t help but sympathize with Clyde’s motives. However, “Law Abiding Citizen” is only a so-so effort, and, with the offensive material and no redemptive payoff (especially by the prosecutor), it is hardly a positive or edifying movie. While primarily geared for less discerning teens/young adults, if you are part of the mature and older crowd that enjoys this type of film, you will probably cheer alongside them, but you may just feel guilty about it later.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.