Law-Abiding Citizen (2009) – Review


After criminals kill his family and the justice system fails him, an inventor (Gerard Butler) starts taking the law into his own hands. Though he’s quickly imprisoned, the killings don’t stop. The prosecutor (Jamie Foxx) who let him down when his family was murdered is the only person who might be able to stop the slaughter. 

The first thing to say about this film is that the title should be hyphenated – “law-abiding”, rather than “law abiding”. It annoys me a lot that nowhere seems to be doing that. Other than that though, I mostly quite liked this film.

Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx spend most of their time growling at each other over a table. One particularly memorable line is “fuck you and your pomme frites“. It’s sort of a twist on the “interview a killer about their crimes and watch a lot of flashbacks” genre, in that all of the non-interview scenes are happening concurrently – the topic isn’t past crimes, but carefully-planned, remotely-committed ones.

The film is a little confused – it can’t work out whether its a pacey thriller or an indictment of an overly process-driven legal system that prioritises neatness over justice. As a result, neither strand is quite as powerful as it might otherwise be. Still, both aspects of the film are well-portrayed, without too many obvious howling inaccuracies or impossibilities. The plot does go off the rails a bit, when it tries to explain how the killer is quite so effective,  and some of the murders are a little ridiculous, but these are forgiveable weaknesses and, to some extent, staples of the genre.

The acting – from the leads to the smaller parts – is convincing, and the dark menacing tone (with occasional moments of intense violence) is maintained throughout. This is not a brilliant artistic work, but it’s a competent thriller that ticks all the right “just as planned” genius killer boxes.

Buy it here.

2 thoughts on “Law-Abiding Citizen (2009) – Review

  1. I was also impressed by the color palette of the film. Throughout they maintained a grey/blue overall tone, which matched the gloom and cold anger that dominates.
    It’s definitely interesting how the film plays off the distinction between “the law” and “what is right”. I definitely enjoyed the antagonist’s perspective on the justice system.
    It’s a great example of how good villain design is a combination of strong and valid arguments, paired with an excessive execution of those ideas, which firmly anchor the villain’s actions in the wrong, even as we may agree with his underlying ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

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