A Tame Version of “Saw”

The Film Law abiding citizen was directed by Gary Gray and is based off of the screenplay by Kurt Wimmer. Felix Gary Gray is most noted for two spectacular films of the past ten years; The Negotiator and The Italian Job (great actions flicks). First off I was expecting what I got out of this film in reference to climaxes of blood, action, and intense violence. Anyways, Jamie Foxx from Collateral and Gerard Butler from 300. Going to be awesome right? Wrong.  Clyde (Gerard Butler) witnesses his wife and young daughter’s murder by 2 accomplices who are caught. The issue now becomes the problem of the government. Ames is sent to death row, but the Jamie Foxes character claims that there was not enough evidence to convict both of them on counts of first degree murder. So here the fun begins. Clyde decides (like a million other movies) to take the “justice system” into his own hands and go after Darby and brutally torture him until he dies.   We can sense a feeling of revenge on Clydes part when he says “I’m gonna pull the whole thing down.  I’m gonna bring the whole fuckin’ diseased, corrupt temple down on your head. It’s gonna be biblical”.Although pretty generic in its approach, it does bring back the question of if it is ever appropriate for a citizen to take things like this into his own hands. Justice is not always done, but then that leaves the question of what would have happened if both accomplices were just sentenced to death row. Well it certainly wouldn’t make a good movie, but are the actions of this former federal defense agent justified? The movie is quite predictable, but is yet another film dealing with more philosophical issues regarding justified revenge. Is there such a thing? Clyde seems to think more along the line of just “blowing shit up” than actually taking a step back and thinking about things. Then again, his wife and kid were murdered. There seems to be elements of almost every city thriller in terms of the visual approach.

 Low angle shots and so forth are elements of every political conspiracy film I’ve seen. I apologize for pointing out most of the negative aspects of the film (other than the cool quote) but I just didn’t really get it. To leave on a good note, I think that F. Gary Gray seems to find great cinematographers.



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6 responses to “A Tame Version of “Saw”

  1. ald3561

    In terms of “justified revenge” in this movie I think it is important to take into account Clyde’s motives. I think we all can agree that were we placed into his situation and defenselessly were forced to watch our family members be brutally raped and murdered, then we would expect the justice system to provide us with what it is intended to give us as citizens- justice. Clyde saw that he was not given justice because the main murderer was left off too easy. Thus, he wanted to bring the whole system down for not granting him what he thought he deserved. In response to the comment about Clyde just wanting to “blow shit up” instead of thinking about things, I think that Clyde did think about things, and he decided that since his wife and child were dead his sole purpose was to seek revenge for them. Yes, this was done by extreme violence and blowing stuff up, but I do not think that Clyde cared about getting caught or eventually having to suffer consequences so he just did what he thought would make the most impact. Which it clearly did.

    • vmarley

      It’s interesting to note the difference in justified revenge in this movie compared to Dead Man Walking. The girl’s parents (who knew that their daughter had also been brutally raped and then stabbed to death) got the death penalty but it makes you wonder if, had he not, would they have also taken justice into their own hands? Would the father of the boy had entertained that thought? The biggest difference was that Clyde witnessed his daughter and wife being killed, he didn’t just notice they were missing and then days later have his fears confirmed. It makes me wonder, if he had not witnessed the brutality of it, would he have been less liable to go out and do what he did? I guess what my biggest question is, does the degree of revenge have anything to do with eyewitness accounts? Even if it were a stranger to witness a murder of another person who they knew nothing about, would they be more likely to seek revenge since they saw it, and didn’t just hear about it?

      • Another point to take into consideration with this idea is the ability to actually take revenge. The parents in Dead Man Walking are average individuals who have no special ability or disposition to violence. Clyde on the other hand was a contractor for government agencies designing creative ways to kill people. This would naturally make him more willing to take measures into his own hands to seek his own justice. (you see this in the film with the use of blades, bombs, drones and other weapons to kill individuals) I do believe because he witnessed the murder of his wife and child he is more inclined to seek vengeance, but I believe desire has to be coupled with ability in order for violence to occur. Had the parents witnessed the murders I do not doubt they would have a different reaction then only learning of their murder well after the fact. Could they have sought revenge personally? Possibly, as human beings are violent in nature, but I doubt they really would have. As they were portrayed in the film, I do not believe these were people with a penchant for violent acts.

  2. tjholt7790

    I think Clyde had deeper motives than just “blowing shit up.” When he did not see justice granted for his family’s deaths, he took it into his own hands to seek a spiteful revenge. But this revenge did not simply stop at his family’s murderers or even at those involved in the shady case; rather it targeted an entire system that Clyde despised. Clyde wanted to “bring the whole temple down,” and in doing so he wanted to destroy the buildings, the people, the laws, the ideas–he wanted to destroy the entire institution of “law.’ Rather than simply channeling his anger into an illogical rampage, Clyde had a deeper and more naive goal: to single-handedly demolish an entire legal institution.

  3. leariej

    I like your title “tame version of saw” because I feel some themes of this movie do draw to the ideas of the Saw collection. First, one can definitely relate the actions taken against Clarence Darby to those of the Jigsaw games in the Saw movies, where one man in a hotel is ripped to pieces and another man is unjustly killed in a jigsaw trap with no exit. This unjust jigsaw trap specifically draws many comparisons to Clyde’s torture setup: a random warehouse, a masked man, and no way out. What made the Saw movies intriguing was that jigsaw had justified reasons for his traps, whether they abided by humane and just actions or not. Similarly, Clyde Shelton’s actions in Law-Abiding Citizen may seem illogical or insane, but in reality he is doing them with the motive to not only avenge his family but highlight the faults of the justice system. I feel that while this movie does provide a cliche storyline on face value, there are still many complex points that can be found with deeper analysis.

    • dscwood

      I agree. The idea that this resembles some of the main events of the Saw films is an interesting notion. The fact that the two are torturing those who they have captured is very similar. Seemingly though, another film that could be compared to the two is “Seven”. I actually think seven may be a better comparison in that it is more of a revenge based film than saw is.

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