Although revenge based stories have always been around, its cinematic form can be traced back to the 1970’s. Tapping into that decade’s sense of mistrust, the Death Wish and Dirty Harry movies helped create a new breed of justice seeking vigilante. Law Abiding Citizen mixes this template by morphing their seriousness with the current vogue of shattering action. Despite moderately achieving this, the end product may see some demanding justice from dodgy writing.
After his wife and daughter are killed during a brutal home invasion, Clyde Shelton’s (Gerard Butler) world crumbles. When the criminals are given a lenient sentence his sense of injustice increases. Ten year later his twisted mind wreaks havoc on those who played their role in the case. Among them is prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) who, despite putting Clyde behind bars, still feels the affects of his vengeance as his fiendish plans terrorizes a city under siege.
Law Abiding Citizen is the type of film beginning well and then becoming increasingly ludicrous with each new revelation. This isn’t such a bad thing as it’s entertaining enough, although the good work of the first half becomes spoilt by some outlandish plotting. Playing roles in opposite side of the law, Foxx and Butler bring some genuine integrity to the early scenes. As fathers who have lost or wanting to protect their families, their ideals appear the same although the way they use the law to their advantage defines them.
This set-up is certainly captivating and allows the story to unfold in interesting directions. Sadly the writers have taken a safer route towards the finale with explosions and guns replacing intelligent brinkmanship. It’s difficult to imagine ‘Silence of the Lambs’ being half as effective had it used this device, although Law Abiding Citizen has several similar qualities which could have made it equally enthralling. But if you roll with the story you’ll enjoy it, although one wonders whether its plot is the same one the actors signed on for.
With an intriguing story eventually succumbing to creaky plotting, Law Abiding Citizen is less than it should be. As diverting hokum it works, although its promise of more thought provoking fare should see it sued for false advertising.
Rating out of 10: 6
Director John Hillcoat’s ’The Road’ brings a harsher twist to the term ’survival of the fittest’. Although conjuring images of physical strength, the slogan can also refer to the psychological vigour needed in any endurance test. Whether the viewer needs this is another point, as The Road’s ongoing bleakness may occasionally prove off-putting. Those willing to see it to the end should find a satisfying answer to what it really takes to survive.
After a devastating event wipes out all plant and animal life, earth’s civilisation has been destroyed. Those remaining are left to fend for themselves with scavenging and cannibalism their only means of survival. Refusing to descend into this dark path are a father (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who travel South in the hope of finding a better place. Avoiding unrelenting and desperate thieves, they attempt to escape humanity’s amoral deeds.
If some films shift between light and shade, The Road is defiantly stuck in the latter. Shot in an endless grey hue, the screenplay’s uncompromising grimness makes a change from cinema’s constant sunshine optimism. Cleverly the way in which it tells this story avoids the trap of delivering an overall depressing experience, as its main theme is of cherishing life. As the ill father teaches his son the survival skills needed, he’s really preparing him to face death and to avoid the slide into terminal surrender.
Hillcoat’s assured direction helps to maintain a sense of dread and desperation enveloping the characters. Never does the air of misery detract from their plight which therefore makes you care what happens, something few directors can accomplish. The strand exploring the difference between humans and savages is very well articulated by the small cast, with Mortensen perfect as a father steadfastly protecting his son from society’s lawlessness. These help overcome the sometimes leaden pace which threatens to dilute its interesting themes.
Wallowing in its desolate severity, The Road may seem like a unending ode to despair. Hopefully it will find an audience willing to ignore this as it offers a unique path on a road few other films seem willing to take.
Rating out of 10: 7