Law Abiding Citizen

October 15, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler, Bruce McGill
Directed by: F. Gary Gray (“Be Cool”)
Written by: Kurt Wimmer (“Street Kings”)

It’s evident in the opening scene of “Law Abiding Citizen” that director F. Gary Gray (“Be Cool”) wants to move the film along at a fairly quick pace. It would have been beneficial, however, if he and screenwriter Kurt Wimmer (“Street Kings”) actually looked before they leaped into a story buried in illogical scenarios and faux moral empathy. Instead, the two lunge forward without haste and end up turning an interesting idea into an absurd revenge flick mismatched with psychological mayhem.

Ten years after the brutal murders of his wife and daughter, Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) resurfaces to avenge their deaths by bringing down not only the two men who committed the crimes, but also the judicial system that failed to bring any closure to his personal tragedy.

When one of the killers agrees to testify against his accomplice, Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) cuts a deal that sends one man to death row and the other to prison for a short stay because of his testimony.

“Some justice is better than no justice at all,” Nick explains.

The loophole in the system doesn’t sit well with Clyde who, after a decade, comes out of mourning just in time to violently punish his family’s murderers. But that’s not nearly enough payback for Nick. He is also seeking vengeance against everyone involved in the case including the defending lawyer, the presiding judge, and the entire District Attorney’s Office. If that’s not daring enough, Clyde has chosen to pull all this off in the confines of a prison cell.

As he mysteriously carries out vengeful death after vengeful death behind bars, Clyde continues to be an enigma for Nick who can’t figure out how he is methodically picking off his colleagues and friends. More important than the kills themselves is whether or not Clyde’s tactical marathon of death will makes much sense once his means are revealed.

Sadly, when that moment comes, the twist in the story is rather lame. While the build-up is sometimes entertaining in short spurts, there’s nothing remotely believable in the payoff. Even when an explanation for Clyde’s talents is exposed, it’s washed over as if screenwriter Wimmer was embarrassed of his own plot choices.

And well he should be. “Law Abiding Citizen” isn’t ashamed to profess its desire to be as intelligent of a crime thriller as “Seven” or “Silence of the Lambs,” but with a loosey-goosey script and a laughable take on social issues the movie ends up stuck in wannabe status without any chance of parole.

From Mexico with Love

October 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Kuno Becker, Steven Bauer, Danay Garcia
Directed by: Jimmy Nickerson (“Forbidden Warrior”)
Written by: Glen Hartford (“Forbidden Warrior”) and Nicholas Siapkaris (“AlphaOmega: First Contact”)

It wouldn’t be a surprise if we were to find out “From Mexico with Love” rolled off a factory conveyer belt and into a theater near you. It’s the type of generic sports movie that would probably be cheaper if it were bought in bulk.

In the film, actor Kuno Becker (“Goal!”) stars as Hector Villa, a Mexican immigrant who has come to the U.S. in search of a better life for him and his family. With the help of immigrant smuggler Tito (Steven Bauer), Hector and his mother (Angélica Aragón) secure a place to work as cucumber pickers on a ranch in Texas.

But when his mother becomes ill, Hector sees no other choice but to step in the boxing ring and punch his way to a payday. Besides making enough money to support his family, there’s a secondary reason Hector wants to lace up his gloves and pick a fight. His honor has been tested by the ranch owner’s son Robert (Alex Nesic), a local hotshot boxer who drives a convertible and flirts with Hector’s childhood friend Maria (Danay Garcia) who has also arrived to work in the fields.

In textbook form, Hector reaches out to Billy (Bruce McGill), a washed-up trainer who used to coach his father in the ring. Billy wonders if Hector has enough heart to be a successful boxer or if he’ll end up like his father and never take the sport seriously enough.

What’s definitely not taken seriously enough is the film’s screenplay. It’s hard to imagine anyone else getting smacked across the head as much as Hector does when he finally starts training for his big bout against Robert, but getting a concussion is the only believable excuse screenwriters Glen Hartford (“Forbidden Warrior”) and Nicholas Siapkaris (“AlphaOmega: First Contact”) should give if asked about their pathetically unoriginal script.

As if a dying mother telling her son that he “can’t solve every problem with [his] fists” isn’t melodramatic enough, Hartford and Siapkaris drag the sports clichés (and even chess metaphors) into the ring hoping most of the audience will overlook the fact that everything they’ve written is so blatantly imitative. “Keep your eye on the prize,” Billy tells Hector at one point in the movie. By then, anyone who has ever seen an underdog sports movie should know what predictable route “Mexico” will take.

Directed by stuntman Jimmy Nickerson, who has been tossed around in such films as “Blade” and “True Lies,” “Mexico” never comes close to digging itself out of a one-sided fight that’s filled with amateur acting, production value, and action sequences. Even before the second dull boxing montage, you’ll be begging someone to throw in the towel.