Law Abiding Citizen (UK - BD RB)
Chris checks out the Blu-ray release of the recent Gerard Butler/Jamie Foxx flick
After witnessing his the brutal murder of his wife and daughter during a home invasion, engineer Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is horrified to learn that one of the criminals, chief antagonist Clarence Darby, has been granted a plea bargain in exchange for giving evidence against his accomplice, Rupert Ames. Shelton begs prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) to take the case to trial, confident that the jury will believe his eyewitness account, but Rice is chiefly concerned with maintaining his ninety-six percent conviction rate and advancing his career and tells Shelton that the case is too weak to secure a fist-degree murder conviction due to compromised forensic evidence. Darby is thus convicted of the lesser crime of third-degree murder, while Ames is sent to death row. When Shelton witnesses Rice shaking Darby's hand after the trial he feels utterly betrayed, and disappears into the crowd...
Ten years later, at Ames execution by lethal injection, something goes wrong. Due to a substitution in the chemical mix, Ames dies a horrific death in agonising pain. Initial evidence points to Darby, but when the police find his mutilated corpse they start to look for other suspects. They eventually follow a lead to a remote address where they find and arrest Shelton, who offers no resistance. Rice arrives to interrogate Shelton and actually congratulates him on killing Darby. During the interrogation Shelton appears to confess to the crime, but is quick to point out that his carefully worded statement did not technically constitute an admission of guilt. Shelton then promises to give a full confession in return for a comfy mattress for his cell. With no real evidence linking Shelton to the crime the authorities capitulate, and Rice does indeed receive his confession. However, he also receives another confession, that of the future murder of Darby's attorney, Richard Portnow. Thus begins a deadly game of cat and mouse in which no one is safe.
Momentum provides us with a 2.40:1 widescreen transfer (1080/24p AVC) for Law Abiding Citizen's Blu-ray début. I'm afraid I don't remember a whole lot about the theatrical screening I attended because I never thought I'd be reviewing the BD, but from the little I can remember this actually looks to be a pretty faithful representation. In fact, it's actually better in a number of areas, thanks to the absence of film artefacts and annoying cinema patrons using their mobile phones... Anyway, the the image is generally fairly 'gritty' throughout, with a fine layer of grain and a muted colour scheme that leans towards the cooler end of the spectrum (think lots of steely blues). Black levels are also satisfyingly deep and shadow detail is acceptable, if not exemplary. The image is sharp (although not razor-like) and fine detail is consistently good, which is especially noticeable in facial close-ups and the fancy suits worn by Jamie Foxx's character. The transfer is also free from any major artefacts, digital or otherwise. All things considered this is a fine visual presentation that does justice to the source material.
A Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is the order of the day here. It's not the most dynamic soundtrack I've ever heard, but it isn't a film jam-packed with crazy stunts and special effects so that's to be expected. No, it's a track that does the basics very well, whether building atmosphere with the sound of bustling city streets, racking up the tension during the crowded prison sequences, or presenting well-integrated dialogue. That's not to say it's completely devoid of life, as there are some impressive directional effects on display during a hectic helicopter ride across the city and when a funeral party is attacked by a remote drone. There's also some powerful bass reinforcing the livelier moments, with the thunderous fire of the drone and the various explosions all packing quite a wallop. The score isn't particularly memorable, but it provides a solid enough foundation for the rest of the elements to build on. This isn't a flashy track, but it is a very effective exercise in subtlety and I was actually quite impressed.
The Justice of Law Abiding Citizen (06:15 HD): This is actually a pretty interesting little featurette that explores some of the real-life legislation governing homicide cases. Explanations are offered by Katie Buckland, a former prosecutor for the City of Los Angels, and Steve Hyman, former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney. It made me cry for the state of the American legal system (and legal systems in general).
Law in Black and White: Behind the Scenes (15:07 HD): This is your usual making of featurette with plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew. There's the usual back-slapping admiration, along with info about the origins of the story, the casting process, and more. It's not ground-breaking, but it's worth a look.
Preliminary Arguments: Visual Effects Progressions (06:46 HD): There are five VFX progression scenes in total, all with accompanying commentary from producer Lucas Foster. Foster gives a pretty thorough breakdown of the various elements that comprised the final shots.
The Verdict: Winning Trailer Mash-Up (01:05 HD): I'm not quite sure what to make of this. It basically looks like an alternate trailer for the film, but the title makes it sound like it's the result of a competition of some sort.
Trailer (02:26 HD): This is a more straight-ahead theatrical trailer of the sort we're used to seeing. It does a reasonably good job of selling the feature.
One the whole I found Law Abiding Citizen to be a reasonably enjoyable way of passing a couple of hours, even if it didn't live particularly long in the memory. With that said, the film did manage to trick me into thinking that a certain character's relationship to the antagonist was far more complex than it actually turned out to be, and not many films manage that these days. (Although I kind of wish I had been right, because it would have made an interesting twist). It's also worth noting that this disc includes the director's cut of the film, which consists of a few short scene extensions and a little more gore rather than any major changes.
If you enjoyed the film theatrically and are interested in picking up this Blu-ray release you certainly won't be disappointed by the audio-visual quality, but once again the UK market gets the short end of the stick when it comes to the extras because we miss out on the theatrical cut and the commentary track as found on the US release. This is particularly disappointing given that the extras are so lightweight to begin with. Even so, the disc is still worthy of your attention either as a rental or an outright purchase.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 12th April 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English
Subtitles: English HoH, Spanish
Extras: The Justice of Law Abiding Citizen, Law in Black and White: Behind the Scenes, Preliminary Arguments: Visual Effects Progressions, Trailer Mash-Up, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: F. Gary Gray
Cast: Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx, Colm Meaney, Bruce McGill, Leslie Bibb, Regina Hall
Length: 118 minutes