Law Abiding Citizen
By Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS)—"Vengeance is mine" has been a popular film theme
through the years, almost always leaving out the crucial last three
words of that quotation from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans: "says the
So in "Law Abiding Citizen" (Overture), when Gerard Butler's
Clyde Shelton announces, while on a murderous rampage, "It's gonna be
biblical," it's just one of many nonsensical bleats in this brutish
fantasy about one man's search for "justice." Director F. Gary Gray and
screenwriter Kurt Wimmer begin with an homage to the old hyper-violent
"Death Wish" films and, after 90 minutes of gushing body parts, concoct
an implausible ending that looks like it was borrowed from an old
Shelton's rage begins when his wife and young daughter are
murdered by two thugs in a home invasion. Justice in a Philadelphia
court means a deal with the prosecution—one thug gets the death
penalty but the other gets just five years in prison.
That's not good enough for Shelton, of course, but he's no
ordinary revenge-seeker with a gun. He's a specialist in the dark art
of killing terrorists, and takes out his anger not only on the
criminals, but also on everyone in the court system, using all manner
of devious technology—even from a prison cell.
Shelton makes a series of implausible "deals" with prosecutor
Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) to prevent more killings, but the strangely
impassive Rice never gets there in time as Shelton gets ever more
The film contains a rape, explicit torture, gun and knife
violence, explosions, rear male nudity, and pervasive crass and rough
language. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification
is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America
rating is R—restricted; under 17 requires accompanying parent or
Jensen is a guest reviewer for the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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