Monday, February 22, 2010

Law Abiding Citizen - 2009


After being bound and gagged and witnessing his wife and daughter killed in a home invasion, engineer Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is told that one of the criminals responsible will only get a light conviction, as much of the evidence against him was compromised by a bungled forensic investigation. Shelton pleads for the prosecutor, Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx), to take the case to court. However, Rice is mostly interested in maintaining his 96% conviction rate, and tells Shelton that the case is too weak to go to court. Rice then makes a deal with Clarence Darby, the actual criminal who murdered Shelton's wife and daughter, for third-degree murder; his accomplice, Rupert Ames, is sent to death row on what is essentially a theft charge. Shelton later sees Rice shaking hands with Darby as if they had just finished a deal, and feels betrayed.

Ten years later, Ames is executed by lethal injection; due to a chemical alteration, he dies in agonizing pain. Initial evidence leads to Darby, who is alerted to the presence of police by a stranger who calls his phone, helping him escape. The stranger orders Darby to throw away his gun and get in a cop car. He says that he will find a cop sleeping in the car. The caller tells Darby to make the cop drive to an abandoned warehouse. Once at the warehouse, Darby forces the cop out of the car and, with the cop's gun, gets ready to execute him. However, the cop is revealed to be Shelton in disguise, who reveals that he's also the stranger who called him in; when Darby attempts to shoot him, the gun handle injects him with tetrodotoxin, paralyzing him. Shelton leads Darby into the warehouse, where he straps him to an operating table, confessing that he had caused the chemical alteration that killed Ames. At that point, Shelton dismembers Darby alive to avenge his family's murder. The police find Darby's remains, and they quickly arrest Shelton, who offers no resistance.

Rice arrives to interrogate Shelton and congratulate him on removing Darby from society. While he's doing so, Shelton initially appears to confess to the crime, and Rice begins to depart, but Shelton points out that his carefully worded statement was not technically a confession. During this time, Rice's family, whom he is too busy to spend time with, receives a DVD of Shelton torturing Darby to death. Shelton agrees to make a real confession in exchange for an expensive mattress in his prison cell. Rice agrees after his superior orders him to, as there is virtually no real evidence connecting Shelton to the murder. At his hearing, Shelton opposes Rice's motion to deny him bail, citing obscure legal precedents. After Judge Laura Burch (Annie Corley), who also presided at Ames trial, agrees, Shelton begins a tirade, railing against the court's preference for legal technicalities over justice, and is removed for contempt of court.

Rice delivers Shelton's mattress and receives his confession of the murders of Darby and Ames. However, Shelton bargains to make another confession for the life of Bill Reynolds (Richard Portnow), Darby's attorney. Shelton claims that Reynolds is alive, and will give his location in exchange for an expensive steak dinner delivered at precisely 1 p.m., along with music from his iPod. Despite repeating that the time must be exact, Warden Inger (Gregory Itzin) forces multiple searches, resulting in Shelton receiving his lunch eight minutes late. After finally getting Reynolds' location, Rice and Detective Dunnigan (Colm Meaney) take a helicopter to it, only to find Reynolds buried alive and only minutes dead, with Inger's delay causing him to suffocate. Shelton, after finishing lunch, brutally murders his cellmate using the bone from the steak. Shelton is then put into a solitary confinement cell underground. After Rice's assistant, Sarah Lowell (Leslie Bibb), finds evidence of contract payments to Shelton from the Department of Defense, district attorney Jonas Cantrell (Bruce McGill) takes Rice to meet a CIA operative (Michael Kelly) who worked with Shelton. The operative tells them that Shelton was a "brain" for the CIA, working in a black ops think tank, that he was the best in the field until he retired, and that if Shelton wants them dead, he'll succeed in it unless they kill him first. The following day, Rice and Cantrell convince Burch to sign an order restricting Shelton's privileges, despite the fact that this might violate his civil rights. Moments later, she answers her cell phone which explodes next to her head, killing her instantly.

Rice confronts Shelton, who says the killings are not about revenge, but about the failure of the justice system, and Rice's personal failure to keep his word. He then claims that, unless he is released with all charges dropped by 6 A.M., he will kill everyone in the DA's office. The office workers congregate at the prison, they once again do not listen to Shelton and 6 A.M. passes by. Rice sends them all home to rest. As they enter their cars, bombs go off from underneath each vehicle, killing six, including Rice's protege Sarah. Realizing that Shelton is keeping good to his word, Rice ponders how Shelton can commit a spree of murders on the outside while he's behind bars, leading him to speculate that Shelton has an accomplice.
At Sarah's funeral, a remote drone slaughters several attendees, including Cantrell. Rice is appointed acting DA by the mayor (Viola Davis), and a massive meeting is called to determine a way to remove Shelton. Rice, via Sarah's computer, receives some information that points to Shelton owning a garage right next to the prison. He and Dunnigan examine the garage, finding a tunnel system leading to every solitary cell underground, including Shelton's, which can explain how Shelton solely does his work to commit the murders. Upon entering Shelton's cell, Rice finds it empty.

Shelton, dressed as a janitor, plants a napalm bomb in City Hall, planning to kill the mayor and most of the senior staff of the Philadelphia emergency services as the final cog of his master plan; however, Rice finds it just in time. Upon his return to his cell, Shelton is confronted by Rice. Shelton offers one final deal which Rice refuses, stating that he no longer makes deals with murderers (the origin of Shelton's anger). Rice calmly tells Shelton that if he attempts to detonate the bomb, he'll have to live with the consequences for the rest of his life. Shelton, after considering for a long moment, does so anyway, and Rice locks shut Shelton's cell, while Dunnigan locks his escape route. Shelton quickly realizes the bomb was placed under his cot, and calmly looks at a bracelet made by his daughter just before her murder. At that time, the bomb goes off, killing Shelton and blowing up part of the prison.

The film ends with Rice finally joining his wife for his daughter's recital.

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