Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Law Abiding Citizen (2009) 2.5 of 4

**Spoiler section marked**

The reviews I've seen for Law Abiding Citizen focus on its implausible plot, and they're correct, but I think they miss the point.
This film is best described by noting two major deviations from what we might expect.  The first is the racial (ethnic) reversal, with a white man being the victim of the U.S. criminal justice system, and a black lawyer (Jamie Foxx) representing that imperfect system, a system based in the cutting of deals.  Although race is never mentioned (IIRC), the film can't help but reflect the unease of a transforming society.  And although he works for the NSA, Gerard Butler's character is basically a very gifted blue-collar tinkerer, and his first name, Clyde, has a Southern ring.

**moderate SPOILERS ahead**
The other twist is that this is a vigilante film that goes so far as to also be a sympathetic serial-killer movie, being even more brutal than The Brave One.  This shocked me, and I almost gave up on the film as simply a nasty piece of work.
The reason I recommend the film is that I realized it has something interesting to say amidst the far-fetched violence and vengeance.  By giving a frustrated crime victim the skills of an NSA contractor, the film asks: what if we judged domestic criminals by the same standards that we use for international terrorists?
**end SPOILERS**

Why do we treat murderers so differently, based on where and how and who they kill?  And as long as we do, should we be surprised when victims sometimes turn into perpetrators?

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