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Law Abiding Citizen(2009)
Clyde Shelton is an upstanding family man whose wife and daughter are brutally murdered during a home invasion. When the killers are caught, Nick Rice, a hotshot young Philadelphia prosecutor, is assigned to the case. Over his objections, Nick is forced by his boss to offer one of the suspects a light sentence in exchange for testifying against his accomplice. Fast forward ten years. The man who got away with murder is found dead and Clyde Shelton coolly admits his guilt. Then he issues a warning to Nick: Either fix the flawed justice system that failed his family, or key players in the trial will die. Soon Shelton follows through on his threats, orchestrating from his jail cell a string of spectacularly diabolical assassinations that can be neither predicted nor prevented. Philadelphia is gripped with fear as Shelton's high-profile targets are slain one after another and the authorities are powerless to halt his reign of terror. Only Nick can stop the killing, and to do so he must outwit this brilliant sociopath in a harrowing contest of wills in which even the smallest misstep means death. With his own family now in Shelton's crosshairs, Nick finds himself in a desperate race against time facing a deadly adversary who seems always to be one step ahead.
For more about Law Abiding Citizen and the Law Abiding Citizen Blu-ray release, see Law Abiding Citizen Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 28, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler, Colm Meaney, Leslie Bibb, Bruce McGill, Viola Davis
Director: F. Gary Gray
» See full cast & crew
Law Abiding Citizen Blu-ray Review
This release doesn't break any rules.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 28, 2010
You can't fight fate.
Imagine Saw meets "Prison Break," and that's a pretty solid basis for discussing Law Abiding Citizen. Though the concept appears on paper as something that's fairly far-fetched and even borderline absurd, Director F. Gary Gray's (The Negotiator) film really does work on several levels thanks to a complexly-detailed yet audience-accessible script, solid acting, and an excellent pace. On the other hand, there's plenty of opportunity along the way to discard the picture; it's often exciting and riveting, but at the same time a tremendous amount of suspension of disbelief is required to get through all of it. That was certainly the case with both the Saw franchise and the "Prison Break" series, and it's no surprise, then, that that caveat carries over to Law Abiding Citizen. Still, considering the longevity of Saw and the popularity of Prison Break, it's clear that audiences are willing to accept logically-flawed concepts in favor of high drama and good storytelling, two areas from which Law Abiding Citizen derives much of its strength.
Family man Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler, Gamer) has survived a home invasion, but his wife and daughter were not as fortunate. Though the two assailants -- Clarence Darby (Christian Stolte) and Rupert Ames (Josh Stewart) -- have been identified by Shelton, prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx, Collateral) has chosen to forego prosecuting both, using Darby as a witness against Ames, even though Shelton insists it was Darby that actually killed his family. Nevertheless, Rice wins his case, and Ames is sentenced to death. Ten years later, Ames is executed for his crimes, though his injection does not go according to plan, delivering him an extended and painful death. Police suspect Darby, who evades the authorities with the help of a mysterious voice on the other end of his cell phone. Darby soon discovers that the voice belongs to Shelton, who subsequently immobilizes, tortures, and kills his family's murderer. However, Shelton's quest for vengeance doesn't stop with Ames and Darby; he's out to teach Rice the meaning of right and wrong and the importance of going after the criminal element at all costs, not when it's expedient or a slam-dunk case to ensure the maintenance of a nearly-flawless conviction rate. As Shelton continues to get the best of Rice, the city of Philadelphia finds itself on edge as a high-profile killer remains on the loose -- even if he's somehow managing to kill from the confines of his prison cell.
Though certainly not an exceptional picture, Law Abiding Citizen nevertheless works as a form of sheer entertainment that does require a bit of thought to accept and understand its rather involved story. This isn't simply a regurgitated Police Procedural or Legal Thriller; Law Abiding Citizen offers viewers something that's fairly new and unique, and the sheen never wears off through a picture that delivers everything from high drama to intense gore. At its center, however, is a well-paced and smartly-woven story that slowly reveals its secrets in the midst of chaos and confusion, the film constructing layer upon layer of mystery and fear as viewers become privy to a city thrown into chaos and a mastermind out for vengeance and succeeding at every turn, even from inside prison walls. One of the picture's strengths lies in its ability to continue to surprise with new angles and revelations as it moves along; just when it seems that, perhaps, Clyde Shelton's quest for vengeance has been satisfied or his master plan thwarted, he unravels another layer that keeps the picture's intensity high and suspense quotient impeccable. There's always an abundance of surprises, genuine jump scares, and even plenty of doubt as to how the film will conclude considering the seemingly unending barrage of curveballs and change-ups tossed at the audience throughout.
Additionally, Law Abiding Citizen serves up a pair of fine performances. Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler demonstrate good chemistry together, and make for a fine protagonist/antagonist pairing, accentuated by both characters demonstrating their own strengths and weaknesses and, more importantly, some degree of character flaw but also a hard-headed steadfastness towards their approach to solving the film's dilemmas. While Foxx's character isn't quite as dimensional as Butler's and more of a standard-fare -- though flawed -- Hollywood hero, Butler's Clyde Shelton seems every bit the match for Actor Tobin Bell's John Kramer character in the Saw pictures. Butler opens the film as a believable -- if not somewhat wimpy -- father figure that seems as harmless as his daughter's makeshift jewelry craft projects. As the film moves along, Butler shows a range that makes his character into something of a sympathetic vigilante, a vulnerable but determined man with nothing to live for but justice and nothing to lose except for the lifeblood that flows through his body, his truer essence having perished along with his wife and daughter. As the film progresses and his quest for vengeance turns into a game of demented pain and vast revenge, he morphs into a bigger, seemingly more dangerous shell of his former self. With every step, Butler plays the character with a believable and altogether fascinating edge, making his one of the more complex and engrossing characters of the past several years.
Law Abiding Citizen Blu-ray, Video Quality
Law Abiding Citizen arrives on Blu-ray with a visually stale but technically superior 1080p, 2.39:1-framed transfer. This is a picture that features a consistently routine visual tone that doesn't exactly lend itself to a spectacular high definition release, but it's also not the sort that's constantly bathed in shadows and darkness. Fortunately, Director F. Gary Gray's film looks excellent on Blu-ray when considering the picture's uninteresting visual flair and nod towards the noir films of old. Colors are nicely reproduced in every applicable frame, appearing stable and natural with no hint of fading or excessive over-saturation. Detail is nicely resolved, too, even if the image takes on a somewhat flat appearance. Very fine object texturing -- for instance that seen on close-up shots of Nick's neckties -- nicely compliments intricate facial details. Additionally, the image is sharp as a tack with nary a hint of excessive softness or any sign of print anomalies to detract from the image, not to mention an absence of digital manipulation, banding, or other compression artifacts. Blacks and flesh tones are accurately reproduced throughout, and Law Abiding Citizen's quality film-like appearance is supported by a handsome but fairly minute grain structure. Though not exactly eye candy material by nature, Law Abiding Citizen nevertheless looks exemplary within the confines of its director-intended tone.
Law Abiding Citizen Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Law Abiding Citizen features a robust but not excessively aggressive Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. This one comes across as spacious and precise from the get-go, and indeed, it never disappoints through the rest of the film. This is a soundtrack of jarring cues intermixed with basic dialogue, ambience, and music. All three are handled well enough, with no discernible absence of clarity to be heard. Ambience in particular is exceptional; whether street-level flowing traffic in one scene or a group of rowdy prisoners in another, Law Abiding Citizen does well to immerse the listener into various environments without overwhelming the senses or creating a false space that doesn't fully jive with the on-screen material. Bass is rather satisfying throughout; several explosions send a positive jolt through the listening area, and gunfire from a heavy machine gun is wonderfully realized as rounds tear through the soundstage with a convincing series of rapid-fire thuds. Like the video presentation, Law Abiding Citizen's soundtrack isn't flashy or all that memorable. Where it excels, then, is in its ability to accurately recreate a seamless experience that's on-par with the director-intended feel of the soundtrack. As such, this is an excellent presentation, even if it's not necessarily one for the record books.
Law Abiding Citizen Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray release of Law Abiding Citizen arrives as a two-disc set, disc one featuring the 118-minute unrated cut of the film, and the second the 109-minute theatrical version. Both discs contain special features, and disc one begins with a pair of featurettes. The Justice of 'Law Abiding Citizen' (1080i, 6:15) features cast and crew and former Los Angeles Prosecutor Katie Buckland discussing the legal ramifications surrounding the initial case as depicted in the film, the quandary of the prosecutor, the fallibility of eye-witness testimony, the role of forensic evidence, and the details of the plea bargain. Law in Black and White -- Behind the Scenes (1080i, 15:06) is, yes, a black-and-white behind-the-scenes feature. The piece features cast and crew speaking on the shoot and the film's themes, a glimpse into the creation of several shots and special effects, crafting an original film, the work of Director F. Gary Gray and Actors Foxx and Butler (who was originally cast in Foxx's role), the complexity of the characters, the chemistry between the leads, shooting in Philadelphia, and the picture's "neo-noir" style.
Next is Preliminary Arguments -- Visual Effects Progressions (1080i), a five-part supplement that looks at the creation of various effects shots and in different stages of completion. Scenes highlighted include Execution (1:25), Snow Enhancement (1:16), Gun Injection (1:05), Finale -- Prison Explosion (1:38), and Car Crash Pre-Viz (1:19). Also included is The Verdict -- Winning Trailer Mash-Up (1080i, 1:05), the Law Abiding Citizen theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:26), and additional 1080p trailers for The Crazies, The Men Who Stare at Goats, Capitalism: A Love Story, and "Spartacus: Blood and Sand." Disc two features a single extra, an audio commentary track with Producers Lucas Foster and Alan Siegel. Recorded after the film had been in theaters for two weekends, the producers discuss the history of the project, the contrast between rooting for a man who is both hero and villain, shooting in Philadelphia, the performances of the cast, set construction, the struggle to fill plot holes, and more. This is a strong commentary that's both honest and fun, informative and entertaining, and a must-listen for fans of the picture.
Law Abiding Citizen Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Law Abiding Citizen is a smart, innovative Thriller that's wholly implausible but nevertheless a whole lot of fun. It's Saw with less violence and a bit more of a focused structure and brain power, and even though much of the film plays out with an absurdity that's hard to ignore, the picture works as sheer and imaginative entertainment that's good enough to keep the audience guessing and immersed in a topsy-turvy world of deliciously-realized improbabilities. Rounded out by slick direction and solid acting, Law Abiding Citizen won't be up for a host of Oscars but it's certainly good enough to enjoy as a thinking man's Horror/Thriller delight. This Starz/Anchor Bay Blu-ray release of Law Abiding Citizen offers a technically strong video transfer, a fine lossless soundtrack, two versions of the film spread across two discs, and a fair helping of extras. As the film doesn't offer much in the way of extensive replay value, general audiences may best be served with a rental, but buyers can rest assured that this Blu-ray release of Law Abiding Citizen features no deal-breaking flaws.
Law Abiding Citizen: Other Editions
Law Abiding Citizen Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Sales, Feb. 22-28: The Citizen Abides (Update) - March 4, 2010
The new releases of the week ended February 28 were unable to unseat Anchor Bay's Law Abiding Citizen from the top spot on Blu-ray, according to Nielsen VideoScan. The Blu-ray market share for Citizen also rose from 28% in its first week to 41%. The direct-to-video ...
• Blu-ray Sales, Feb. 15-21: Law Abiding Citizen Rules (Update) - February 25, 2010
Law Abiding Citizen was the top-selling title on Blu-ray during the week ended February 21, according to Nielsen VideoScan First Alert. Second place was for the Xbox 360 video game spinoff Halo Legends, which performed much better on high-def than on standard definition ...
• Law Abiding Citizen Unrated Blu-ray Announced - December 27, 2009
Anchor Bay Entertainment has announced 'Law Abiding Citizen' for Blu-ray release on February 16, 2010. 'Law Abiding Citizen', starring Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx, is a thriller about a brilliant sociopath who orchestrates a series of high-profile murders that ...
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