Clyde (Butler) has his happy life destroyed when a psycho (Stolte) kills his wife and daughter, but his lawyer Nick (Foxx) accepts a plea bargain that lets the killer out of jail in three years. A decade later, Clyde starts his revenge. A spot of brutal torture and murder lands him in prison, but he continues from behind bars with his violent mission to take down the legal system. It's up to Nick and a cop (Meaney) to figure out how he's doing this before he kills them too.
Gaping plot-holes and thinly drawn characters are a problem in any script, although director Gray is adept at keeping us distracted, simply because he doesn't pause to let us examine the plot's enormous improbabilities (much of this hinges on a revelation that throws logic out the window). Meanwhile, each person in the story is defined by filmmaking shorthand, such as a warmly inviting home, a cute child or a reference to some sort of lovelife.
The actors play these elements perfectly, making us believe the non-existent back-stories so that we accept them as rounded characters, even though they have no shadings at all. Foxx is magnetic as usual, and his interaction with colleagues (McGill, Bibb and Bart), his wife (Hall), daughter (Young) and Philadelphia's mayor (Davis) convinces us that he's the good guy. On the other hand, Butler struggles to make us sympathise with his despicable character, who is clearly meant to be righteously indignant.
Except that there's nothing remotely righteous about him. Not one of his actions is forgivable; he's more of a danger than the men who killed his family. And this is the fact that's completely lost on the filmmakers, as there's never a sense that brutality and death are the wrong way to correct an injustice. Indeed, as the pernicious story progresses even the cops, lawyers and judges become cold-blooded killers, and we're supposed to cheer for them.
Which is inexcusable.
Run time: 109 mins
In Theaters: Friday 16th October 2009
Box Office USA: $73.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $126.7M
Distributed by: Overture Films
Production compaines: Film Department, The, Evil Twins, Warp Films
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 25%
Fresh: 39 Rotten: 117
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Director: F. Gary Gray
Screenwriter: Kurt Wimmer
Starring: Jamie Foxx as Nick Rice, Gerard Butler as Clyde Alexander Shelton, Colm Meaney as Detective Dunnigan, Bruce McGill as Jonas Cantrell, Leslie Bibb as Sarah Lowell, Michael Irby as Detective Garza, Gregory Itzin as Warden Iger, Regina Hall as Kelly Rice, Emerald-Angel Young as Denise Rice, Christian Stolte as Clarence Darby, Annie Corley as Judge Laura Burch, Richard Portnow as Bill Reynolds, Viola Davis as Mayor April Henry, Michael Kelly as Bray, Josh Stewart as Rupert Ames, Roger Bart as Brian Bringham