Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Law Abiding Citizen" Does Not Disappoint

If you love a great, nail-biting film, "Law Abiding Citizen" is an excellent choice. Directed by F. Gary Gray, and starring Academy Award winning actor Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler, it's a story of corruption and revenge.

Jamie Foxx plays cocky Philadelphia prosecutor Nick Rice. The film spans a period of ten years. As the film opens, Nick is spending time with his pregnant wife. Cut to a nice house in the suburbs. A loving father (Gerard Butler) is in his basement with his young daughter. He plays Clyde Shelton, a brilliant inventor who has made millions of dollars on his inventions and patents. He is a loving father and husband, who, as he and his family are settling in for the night, are victims of a brutal random act of violence. Within a matter of minutes, Clyde's life is turned upside down. Both his wife and young daughter are killed, and he's left alive. The two men who have committed these horrific crimes are eventually arrested. As a young prosecutor, Rice is given this case, and, thanks to his corroboration, one of the men are condemned to die (the wrong one, as it turns out) and the other, the one who actually committed the atrocities, is set free on a plea bargain. It's now ten years later, and Clyde has spent years plotting to get justice for the death of his family. A series of events ensue, and Clyde catches up with the man who committed the crime. Needless to say, it does not end well. Clyde goes to jail, but takes out hits on everyone involved in freedom of his family's murder. Rice is brought on to prosecute him, but ends up doing a vengeful man's errands. If he refuses, Clyde systematically kills everyone, one by one, involved in the decade long case.

On one hand, this film is somewhat predictable. I can only imagine how watching someone you love, especially a child and a wife become victims of somebody's act of random violence. If the film had ended with Clyde going to jail because of his vengeance, then I would say that it would be a VERY predictable film. The thing that sets this film apart is that he exacts his crimes while he's locked away. As with any other thriller novel or film, this film has peaks and valleys. During the lulls in the film (and there are several) I found my mind wandering to other things, but all of the sudden, it was yanked back into the film by a surprising, and often brutal twist. Foxx's role as the prosecutor, and ultimately the hero, is a safe role for him. His Oscar winning role as 1950s rock and roll legend Ray Charles was exceptional, as was his role as a cab driver with an unusual fare in "Collateral Damage". Gerard Butler shines in his role as Clyde. Lately, he's been in the romantic comedy "The Ugly Truth" and as King Leonidas in "300". But this was the first film that I've seen him in which his performance has given me goosebumps. I think one of the true measures of a good actor is how they portray the antagonist. Granted, Clyde did not start out as the antagonist, but various events in his life has led him to it. And the manners in which he carries out his various plans are truly maniacal.

You will be entertained, horrified, and at times, bored. But in the end, you will not be disappointed.

Friday, February 12, 2010

"Zombieland" is a Pleasant Surprise

Typically, I'm not a fan of the horror genre. In fact, I usually avoid it like a plague. However, this was one film that was highly tauted. Having seen many previews, I was intrigued. Still, I approached the film with caution. I was highly entertained by Simon Pegg in 2004's zombie spoof "Shaun of the Dead". Although its follow-up, "Hot Fuzz" was not of the same genre, it brought back the same cast and director, and kept much of the same dry British humor. In "Zombieland", directed by relative film newcomer Ruben Fleischer, I found the humor to be similar to these two films.

In the film, Jesse Eisenberg plays "Columbus" a somewhat eccentric, paranoid young man who is trying to get home to Columbus, Ohio to see his estranged parents. Along the way, he meets Woody Harrelson's "Tallahasse". He turns out to be somewhat of a zombie head hunter who wants to get revenge for the death of somebody close to him. The two men form a strange friendship based on a mutual hatred of a world-wide pandemic which has turned everyone into flesh eating zombies. One thing that brings the two men together, besides survival, is their strange habits and yearnings. While Columbus lives by a list of rules, and has a rather embarassing medical problem, Tallahasse only wants one thing; a Twinkie. This certainly makes for a hilarious series of events. During one of their shopping/zombie killing sprees, they encounter a two-woman sister con team whose only goal is to get to a supposedly zombie-free amusement park in California, one that they both visited when they were younger. The four of them then bond an equally strange friendship.

As I mentioned, I was skeptical. Films like this one don't usually intrigue me. But there was something about this one that piqued my curiosity. One thing that drew me to this film was Woody Harrelson. We've seen him in off the wall comedic films such as the bowling comedy "Kingpin" and in dramatic films, such as his Academy Award-nominated role as bigger than life magazine editor Larry Flynt in "The People vs. Larry Flynt". Secondly, I was intrigued by the dry comedic wit. Harrelson is great at delivering his comedic lines with a dead-pan expression, which almost makes his lines exponentially funnier.

If you are a zombie skeptic, see this movie. It's not so much a story about zombies, but a story of four friends who have a singular goal; survival. It's a story of survival of the fittest, opposites attract, and so on. This is an excellent, well-made film, and one that will be added to my personal collection soon.