Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is an upstanding family man whose wife and daughter are brutally murdered during a home invasion. When the killers are caught, Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), a hotshot young Philadelphia prosecutor, is assigned to the case. Over his objections, Nick is forced by his boss to offer one of the suspects a light sentence in exchange for testifying against his accomplice. Fast forward ten years. The man who got away with murder is found dead and Clyde Shelton coolly admits his guilt. Then he issues a warning to Nick: Either fix the flawed justice system that failed his family, or key players in the trial will die. Soon Shelton follows through on his threats, orchestrating from his jail cell a string of spectacularly diabolical assassinations that can be neither predicted nor prevented. Philadelphia is gripped with fear as Shelton's high-profile targets are slain one after another and the authorities are powerless to halt his reign of terror. Only Nick can stop the killing, and to do so he must outwit this brilliant sociopath in a harrowing contest of wills in which even the smallest misstep means death. With his own family now in Shelton's crosshairs, Nick finds himself in a desperate race against time facing a deadly adversary who seems always to be one step ahead.
The legal thriller meets the serial-killer shocker in Law Abiding Citizen. The story begins when home invaders kill Clyde Shelton's wife and daughter. The bereaved father (played by a thoroughly unsympathetic Gerard Butler) looks to slick Philly prosecutor Nick Rice (a low-key Jamie Foxx) to see that they receive the maximum sentence. Instead, the murderer, Ames, testifies against his accomplice, Darby, who gets the chair, while he gets 10 years. Upon his release, Ames' mutilated body turns up in an abandoned warehouse, and all roads lead to Shelton. Rice attempts to defend him, but his client makes it impossible--Shelton wants to go to prison--so he does time, but then members of Rice’s legal team start to die. The attorney suspects Shelton, but can't connect him to the crimes, so he races against the clock to save the lives of his assistant, Sarah (Leslie Bibb), D.A. Jonas (Bruce McGill), and his own wife and child. The movie may sound like a Yank reboot of the Japanese chiller Cure, in which an inmate kills from inside institutional walls, but plays more like a mash-up between The Silence of the Lambs, without the psychological complexity, and The Devil's Advocate, without the cynical giggles. F. Gary Gray got his start with hip-hop videos and urban action flicks, like Set It Off, until he hit the big time with his remake of The Italian Job. Law Abiding Citizen is a disappointing muddle from a director who's done better in the past and will surely do better in the future. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Stills from Law Abiding Citizen (Click for larger image)