Film Archive for October, 2009

Review: Law Abiding Citizen

Directed by F. Gary Gray

Way back in March, I reviewed the dreadful movie Knowing. At the time, I thought perhaps I’d seen the worst atrocity foisted upon mainsteam theater audiences in 2009. Well, folks, we have another contender this week: the dreadful Jamie Foxx-Gerard Butler vehicle Law Abiding Citizen. If you’re short on time, let me get right to the point: Save your money. If you want more details on why, or you just enjoy reading about absurdly bad movies, do read on.

Here’s what we have in the way of a plot, to the extent that the film actually has one: Gerard Butler plays Clyde, the law-abiding citizen/crazy guy who goes off the deep end after his wife and daughter are murdered in a home invasion. (And for the record, “Clyde” is never a “law abiding citizen”-type name. Mark, or Steve, or Bill perhaps, but never “Clyde.”)

Why Clyde’s family is targeted, and how he ends up left alive while he wife and young daughter are dead, we don’t really know, but just assume we’re working with your typical Steven Seagal-level “they killed my family and now everyone must pay! Muahahaha!” plot and go from there. If you start at the bottom, there’s no where to go but up, right? Hah. If you think that, you didn’t pay enough attention in math class, where we learned about how things can actually be less than zero — which is certainly the case with this film.

Jamie Foxx, an otherwise talented guy, has the vast misfortune to be cast in this film as Nick Rice, the dapper, career-minded prosecutor who strikes a devil’s bargain that lets the more obviously evil of the two bad guys cut a sweet deal with the state.

Poor Clyde goes all mental and spends the next decade (A decade! Now that’s tenacity!) plotting his revenge. Not just on the guys who actually killed his wife and daughter — that wouldn’t make for a very long movie, silly! — but on everyone associated with the case, including Nick, who was just doing his job, after all. But Clyde is out to change the system! By killing everyone! For the record, none of this is spoiler, because what plot points there are to the film were all cut together into the trailer.

So Clyde, even from behind bars, manages to carry out his nefarious plot to get his revenge on those who wronged his murdered family. The guy is locked up behind bars, but he still manages to blow shit up and kill people and no one can stop (or apparently even monitor) him. He’s like Criss Angel, pulling off ridiculously impossible stunts. Only Criss Angel is cool and kind of sexy, and Clyde is a sociopath in a film in which the lameness, unfortunately, is not an illusion.

Nick, meanwhile, had a daughter of his own shortly after the events that kick off the film, so now he has a wife and daughter — just like poor Clyde once had. Hmm … is that a potential plot point I smell? Unfortunately, Kurt Wimmer, the screenwriter, after setting this up, fails to do anything remotely interesting with it or any of the other plot points that litter the film (though to be fair to Wimmer, it’s entirely possible that his script kicked ass and the studio suits mucked it up).

Whoever’s to blame, Law Abiding Citizen is as littered with problems as it is dead bodies. There are many better ways to spend your time and money this weekend, folks. Go see An Education, or Where the Wild Things Are, or Paranormal Activity. Take a walk, bake some bread, scrub your toilet. However you choose to spend your time, it will be better spent than if you’d wasted 90 minutes of it sitting through this wretchedly bad film.

-by Kim Voynar

Getting An Education

If you see one movie this weekend,and you’re fortunate enough to live in one of the cities where it’s opening in limited release, go see An Education. I know, you’re busy, you have other stuff going on, you’re secretly dying to see Couples Retreat. Just trust me.
An Education became one of the big buzz films of this year’s Sundance, and with good reason.I’m not going to tell here what it’s about, you can go over here and read my review from Sundance. But I will emphasize again that Carey Mulligan, the young actress who stars as the teenage girl seduced by a smooth-but-oh-so-creepy Peter Sarsgaard with the complicity of her parents, is simply fantastic in this film. This girl has the goods, and if she keeps making smart film choices she will have a very promising career ahead of her. It’s a smart, entertaining film, directed by a woman, and starring a young actress with remarkable talent and promise. What more do you want?

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“I always thought that once I had lived in Chicago for a while, it would be interesting to do a portrait of the city – but to do it at a significant time. Figuring out when would be the ideal time to do that was the trick. So when this election came around, coupled with the Laquan McDonald trial, it seemed like the ideal time to do the story. Having lived in Chicagoland for thirty-five-plus years and done a number of films here, I’ve always been struck by the vibrancy of the city and its toughness. Its tenderness too. I’ve always been interested in the people at the center of all the stories. This is a different film in that regard, because we’re not following a couple of individuals over the course of the project in the way that a lot of the films I’ve done have, but I still feel like people’s voices and aspirations and hopes are at the center of this series.

It wasn’t easy. We started back in July 2018, it was actually on the Fourth of July – that was our first shoot. It’s like most documentaries in that the further you go along the more involved and obsessed you get, and you just start shooting more and more and more. We threw ourselves into this crazy year in Chicago. We got up every day and tried to figure out if we should be out shooting or not, and what it is we should shoot. We were trying to balance following this massive political story of the mayor’s race and these significant moments like the Laquan McDonald trial with taking the pulse of people in the city that we encounter along the way and getting a sense of their lives and what it means to live here. By election day, Zak Piper, our producer, had something like six cameras out in the field. You could double-check that, it might have been seven. We had this organized team effort to hit all the candidates as they were voting, if they hadn’t already voted. We hit tons of polling places, were at the Board of Elections and then were at the parties for the candidates that we had been able to follow closely. Then of course, we were trying to make sure we were at the parties of the candidates who made it to the runoff. So, yeah, it was kind of a monster.”
~ Steve James On City So Real

“I really want to see The Irishman. I’ve heard it’s big brother Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece. But I really can’t find the time. The promotion schedule is so tight, there’s no opportunity to see a three and a half-hour movie. But I really want to see it. In 2017, right before Okja’s New York premiere, I had the chance to go to Scorsese’s office, which is in the DGA building. There’s a lovely screening room there, too, with film prints that he’s collected. I talked to him for about an hour. There’s no movie he hasn’t seen, even Korean films. We talked about what he’s seen and his past work. It was a glorious day. I’ve loved his work since I was in college. Who doesn’t? Anyone involved with movies must feel the same way.”
~ Bong Joon-ho