Movie Review: Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

February 6, 2010 in Movie Reviews by pacejmiller

Law Abiding Citizen (the film not the citizen) is one of those films that could be enjoyable if in the right frame of mind.  Don’t think about the plot holes or the political slant.  Forget the self-righteousness and accept it for what it is – an above-average thriller with big-name actors and a few solid moments, but at the end of the day, a pretty forgettable affair.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I was in the right frame of mind.  To me, Law Abiding Citizen came off like a film that believed it was much better than it actually was.  With a few tweaks and in the right hands, I think it could have been pretty special.

It’s hard to describe this movie without giving away the plot.  Oscar winner Jamie Foxx plays prosecutor Nick Rice, and Gerard Butler plays engineer Clyde Shelton.  Law Abiding Citizen is part revenge-movie, part battle-of-wits.  There’s definitely a bit of Saw in there as well.  It feels like the type of film you’ve seen many times before, but you can’t quite put your finger on when or where (just off the top of my head I can sense fragments of Public Enemies and Fracture in it).

Anyway, I really liked the premise of Law Abiding Citizen, though the impact of the introductory scenes weren’t as strong as I thought it would be.  I then had to block the whole spiel on the injustice of the legal system out of my mind because it was waaay over-simplified, and more importantly, it was handled with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.  If I had let that get to me, then the whole film would have gone down the drain right there.  When it comes to the law, I think most viewers are too savvy to buy into this kind of manipulative stuff so easily these days.

Then came the first couple of notable ‘incidents’, which I thought panned out pretty well.  The two big stars were beginning to stand toe-to-toe and the film was starting to get interesting.  Their exchanges were full of tension and it made me wonder what improbable thing would happen next.

However, at some point, the excitement simply dried up.  Big problem – because once you have some time to think about it all, the holes start appearing and you realise how trite the whole thing is.  The sad way the film fizzled in the end didn’t exactly help its cause either.

So ultimately, I was a bit disappointed with Law Abiding Citizen.  Not because of its political messages or its over-simplification of some very complicated issues, but because it didn’t feel nearly as good as it should have been.  Which is a surprise because director F Gary Gray was at the helm of The Negotiator (a classic in my opinion) and the solid The Italian Job.  Writer Kurt Wimmer is no slouch either, having worked on Sphere, The Recruit and Street Kings (none of which were terrific but by no means horrible).  Even Gerard Butler and (especially) Jamie Foxx, who are both usually excellent, didn’t quite click into full gear for some reason.

I can’t explain why the pieces didn’t fall together like they should have, but Law Abiding Citizen made me wish it was much better than it really was.

2.5 stars out of 5!

DVD Review: The Proposal (2009)

February 6, 2010 in Movie Reviews by pacejmiller

The Proposal is one of those romantic comedies that you wouldn’t necessarily call good, but there are worse ways to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon than watching Sandra Bullock (Ms Oscar Nominee) and Ryan Reynolds (Mr Scarlett Johansson) on screen (though let’s face it, not many).

Without giving too much away, Bullock plays Magaret Tate, the bitchy executive editor-in-chief of a publishing company, and Reynolds is Andrew Paxton, her hard-working assistant.  You can pretty much work out the whole story from there if you have a think about the name of the film (ie The Proposal), the poster, and what type of roles Bullock and Reynolds seem to always play in rom-coms.  And to top it off, the director is Anne Fletcher, who was at the helm of Step Up and 27 Dresses.  Let’s stop pretending the movie is not entirely predictable.

Fortunately, The Proposal does have some funny parts, and it does have a bit of heart.  There are a few decent laughs, mostly involving Bullock and her silly character traits, though Reynolds does have surprisingly good comedic timing.  However, it’s not what I would call a hilarious movie – a number of jokes don’t quite have the intended effect, and a few simply fall flat.

Another plus of the film is that there a couple of minor breaks from the ordinary rom-com cliches, and a few unexpected little twists.  You probably wouldn’t even notice them, but they’re there.

What I probably liked most was that the film was set in a major publishing company.  Though the opening scenes were relatively short, it was interesting to see how a place like that worked.  I’m not so sure I’d like to work in one now!

3 out of 5 stars!

[PS: Sandra Bullock’s character unfortunately reminds me of quite a few power women at work.  Despite the fact that it’s hilarious to make fun of them, their lives are actually really really sad.]