Killing with abandon, he doesn’t even leave his prison cell. And while all Clyde Shelton munches is the scenery and a decent steak, he does then murder his cell-mate with the bone.
It was another Good-Bad Film Club evening last night, and I’ll not lie, this one – chosen purely for Gerard Butler – was a surprise. Mainly because I got it mixed up with Machine Gun Preacher, also starring Gerard Butler, and was expecting a religious biker going to Sudan to do charity work.
Despite that, Law Abiding Citizen was a perfect Good-Bad Film Club choice. First of all its Rotten Tomatoes rating demonstrated the massive disparity between critics and the cinema-going public, and secondly it fell into the pattern we seem to have established for ourselves in the Good-Bad Film Club, where we try to balance out creature features, over-egged sci-fi, disasters (either the subject of the film or in its making), and Gerry.
It also has a character quoting Marcus Aurelius which is always a good sign of a bad movie.
Next week we’re apparently watching Titanic II, which I suspect has nothing to do with Jack and Rose, arguing over that floating door – not my choice but we had to do something for the third member of the club, who sat out Law Abiding Citizen as she felt with the present world situation, mild peril was as far as she was willing to go.
And Law Abiding Citizen is very heavy on the peril. Clyde (Butler) kills and kills, even the nice people on the DA’s team that we’ve got to know and root for.
It’s ostensibly because his wife and little daughter were murdered by two thugs during a home invasion robbery. Darby, the worst one (relatively speaking) then made a deal with up and coming prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) to send the slightly less bad one (Ames) to Death Row, while he was back out on the streets in a few years.
Ten years on and shortly after Ames dies in agony of a lethal injection that should be pain-free, Darby is kidnapped then strapped to a gurney in a deserted warehouse before having his limbs, eyelids and penis cut off while still conscious. It’s a sort of reverse Frankenstein, from the man who once played Dracula.
Clyde is put in prison but the deaths keep coming, and they’re all people who had something to do with what he sees as a Philadelphia justice system that failed to even care enough to try to punish Ames and Darby.
It’s hugely violent and morally adrift, and the man who plays Darby looks just like Johnny Vegas.
And fair play to Butler, Jamie Foxx and director F. Gary Gray as they really give this movie both barrels: it’s hugely violent and morally adrift, and the man who plays Darby looks just like Johnny Vegas. Butler has that weird mouth thing going on where it looks like he has one too many teeth, and while he’s not particularly good that doesn’t really matter as the most interesting stuff his character does we never see him actually do (or indeed think up).
We’re supposed to root for Clyde, for taking on an impassive and broken justice system that lets killers walk free – indeed once he’s an actual killer himself, he gets particularly angry when a judge tries to free him on bail.
But post-Darby’s dismemberment he just comes across as a psycho, especially when he blows up the lovely Sarah (Leslie Bibb), Nick’s hard-working assistant. Clyde sees Nick as responsible for the lack of justice when his family were slaughtered, and no one it seems is off-limits.
Liz and I spent most of the time on our Zoom chat trying to work out who his accomplice on the outside was, setting up all those car bombs and the mayor’s exploding cell phone. But every time she suggested one over chat, he/she was instantly murdered. It was uncanny: maybe Liz had seen it before and was just toying with me all the way through? Though on balance I don’t think she’d have been able to keep quiet about naked Gerard Butler.
(Spoiler: there isn’t an accomplice, he’s spent a decade tunnelling into the solitary confinement cells from outside the prison, and killed his cell-mate in the main prison so he’d be sent there.)
Oh yes and we were also googling Duxiana beds, probably one of the weirdest product placements I’ve ever seen (Clyde demands one in his cell in one of the many deals he tries to do with Nick).
On the plus side, I finally discovered the provenance of many of the Gerard Butler memes I’ve been firing off around Twitter for the past four years, including “It’s gonna be biblical!”
Speaking of fire, Clyde is finally tricked by Nick into being locked in his cell with his own massive bomb, and dies a fiery death. Which, while satisfying, does seem a bit… corrupt?
The Good-Bad Film Club Rating
This is definitely a Bad-Good movie. It starts off terrible (family being murdered) but then, while it doesn’t exactly improve, you can’t really fault its commitment. Like a truly horrible stomach bug, it’s both painful yet madly gripping.
This week’s googlefact: Gerard Butler was meant to play Nick and Jamie Foxx was meant to play Clyde!
Law Abiding Citizen is, at the time of writing, available on Netflix, and from: