Here is the genre of action movie that catches you while you watch it, keeps you on the edge of the chair or sofa, but later, when lights are turned on again you start asking questions about credibility and authenticity not only of the action, but also of the characters and the meaning of what you have seen on screen.

(video source trailers)

The first scenes of Law Abiding Citizen show the hero (played by Gerald Butler of king Leonidas fame in 300 in a very Russel Crowe style) talking with his young daughter while building some amateurish electronics (actually they should be very professional but we shall know this much later). Then hell breaks, bad guys break into the house, kill his daughter, kill and rape his wife. When the DA (Jamie Foxx) closes the deal with one of the murders to be the prosecution witness against the other, so that he gets a lighter punishment vs. death row, our hero gets angry. He actually gets more then angry, he becomes a psychopathic serial killer, who will kill one by one not only the perpetrators of the horrific crime that destroyed his life but also everybody who was involved in the deal. He actually will be more than just a serial killer, he will be a sophisticated serial killer, who is able to kill even while he finds himself in jail, even when he founds himself in seclusion. This we learn because his skills were not really amateurish,  but rather the ones of a professional planner of murders. The criminals and the compromise-prone justice people had really chosen the wrong guy.

(video source moviesireland)

Does the synopsis look like already-seen-hundred-times at best and stupid at worst? Yes, it does. The surprise is how well it works for the majority of the film duration. The merit belongs in my opinion to director F. Gary Gray whose previous best quoted films (The Negotiator, The Italian Job) were also in the thriller and action genres proving his mastering of the matter. Gray keeps the suspense at high most of the time, he succeeds to surprise the viewer several time with insertions of violence just when the apparent order seems to be re-established, but most than all he knows how to pick his actors. Gerald Butler is so credible that we end as viewers by empathizing with his hero much more than he deserves, but the real surprise is Colm Meaney a great TV actor that we know from scores of series, who gets here an opportunity to make it on the big screens and certainly deserves much more time on them.

It’s just after-screening logic that kills this film. But turning on the lights after the screening is unavoidable as we all know.