When the audience is introduced to Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler), he is the average everyman, having a chat with his daughter. In an instant, his house is broken into, Clyde’s wife and child murdered.
When one of the men responsible is let off with an easy sentence, Clyde turns into a killer on par with Jigsaw from the Saw series. Limbs are severed, heads are blown off, and explosions are frequent. At least, that is what the audience is supposed to believe.
For most of Law Abiding Citizen, the ride is paced well enough that most of it does make sense. Dialogue is engaging, characters are developed, and the tension is high. This is an entertaining thriller, at least until the end where that already loose credibility is completely shattered.
Shelton has to assume quite a bit for his revenge act to work. He has to figure everyone is going to appear where he wants them to, and when he wants them to, even weeks into his plot. He has to assume the jail will remain the same over the course of many years. He has to learn skills that are out of his job criteria, a lowly (but smart) inventor.
Law Abiding Citizen is more of a test to determine how far an audience is willing to go, at least in the interest of an original, unique concept. There is little doubt that the earliest scenes are gut wrenching to watch, especially an execution gone wrong, inter-cut with a little girls violin recital. Law Abiding Citizen has a strong draw, and enough quality to almost pull this off.
Unfortunately, the final minutes are too much to take, including a spectacular and oddly still emotional pyrotechnic display. Despite the development of these characters, how Clyde pulled off this final act, especially with the city on complete and total lockdown because of him, ruins it all. The film deserves credit for the ride that comes before, but with the sour taste it leaves you with, that same credit is easily stripped away.
If Anchor Bay’s AVC encode does anything, it is show off the skyline of Philadelphia flawlessly. Numerous pans reveal exquisite levels of detail, sharpness, and definition, even deep into the frame. Grain adds an unobtrusive texture, without any significant problems to the encode itself.
On the ground, and in close, the transfer typically excels at facial definition. Pores and crisp clothing textures are regularly evident, not to mention cleanly defined. While it lacks consistency (Butler’s face in the interrogation cell for example), each proper showcase is spectacular. Environments maintain the same level of object detail, whether in Jamie Foxx’s home once the film is brought into present day, or the various offices.
Black levels are superb, and most importantly, consistent. Every scene delivers depth and dimension with no notable crush. Flesh tones are accurate to the cool color palette of the film, and general vibrancy is scene dependent. A drastic increase in saturation occurs once out of the brief flashback, which then cuts into the home of Foxx’s character, including bright orange juice sitting in a cup and rich clothing shades. A hint of ringing, notable when Foxx and Bruce McGill meet an informant, is minor.
A TrueHD mix is notable for ambiance, and a brief action sequence in a cemetery. The latter has a robot firing on a vehicle, with bullets whizzing through the soundfield. A beefy explosion follows after a missile launch (!), delivering that satisfying low-end. The score is lively, bleeding into the surrounds effectively, and catching the subwoofer during some powerful drumbeats, particularly during one of the early police raids on a killers apartment.
Law Abiding Citizen focuses on immersion, creating that hard-to-deliver dimensional audio effect in each scene. Inside the prison, inmates bang on their cell doors and heckle the guards, all in the surrounds and the spaced fronts. City ambiance, from sirens to other cars just passing by, is always exceptional. A helicopter sequence creates wonderful movement as it passes front to back and left to right.
Oddly, this is split onto a two-disc set, one with the theatrical cut and another with the director’s cut that runs 10-minutes longer. Why seamless branching was not used is currently a mystery. Regardless, a commentary is available only with the theatrical cut, featuring producers Lucas Foster and Alan Siegel.
The other extras are contained on the unrated cut (the first disc), including two featurettes that total about 22-minutes total. The first focuses on the legal side of the film, the second on the challenges of making the movie. Five scenes show off the visual effects progression, running nearly seven minutes. A trailer mash-up was apparently from an online contest, but no notes are included with it. General trailers remain.