By Kurt Jensen
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 Lord.”
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 “Scooby-Doo” cartoon.
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 inventive.
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Jensen is a guest reviewer for the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.
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 adult guardian.