Overall Impression – Ignore those logic questions scratching at the back of your brain.  The movie’s kinda fun!


Who’s your main character? – Nick Rice.

What’s he trying to accomplish? – Professional: put an end to Clyde’s vendetta against the broken justice system. Personal: fix his relationship with his family.  Private: learn how justice should really be won.

Who’s trying to stop him? – Clyde Shelton.

What happens if he fails? – Clyde will continue killing people (including innocents) all over the city.


Orphan – Nick’s focus is on his work instead of his family.  His approach to legal justice might also be seen as misguided, dubious and self-serving.

Wanderer – Nick joins forces with his colleague (Sarah) and a local detective, and together they try to figure out how and why Clyde’s killing people when he’s locked up in a maximum security prison.  When those attached to the case start dying after Nick doesn’t take Clyde’s demands seriously, Nick makes it his sole mission to stop Clyde.

Warrior – Nick throws everything into the investigation, eventually becomes the city’s DA, and races against time to stop Clyde’s murderous agenda.

Martyr – Nick is willing to die to stop the bombing of important government officials, and later risks his legal career by tricking Clyde into killing himself.


There’s certainly some dubious logic at work in LAW ABIDING CITIZEN (e.g., How does Clyde leave his cell for any length of time without the prison guards noticing?), but that’s a conceit that I have no trouble overlooking.  If that sort of thing got to me, I’d have issues with a lot of movies!  Like in HOME ALONE: why would Kevin take on a pair of bumbling burglars when he could simply call the police?  Answer: who cares?!  The movie’s fun!

LAW ABIDING CITIZEN is an interesting take on the notion that the hero and villain create one another.  When high-flying lawyer Nick takes on Clyde’s case following the murder of Clyde’s family, his feeling of injustice at Nick’s handling of things creates his belief that the justice system is broken – and so begins Clyde’s vendetta.  This in turn brings Nick into action as the hero.  Similar cycles appear all the time in movies.  Batman: Jack Napier kills Bruce Wayne’s parents, creating Batman; Batman later causes Jack Napier to fall into a vat of acid, creating The Joker.  The Incredibles: Mr. Incredible crushes Buddy Pine’s dream of becoming a superhero, so he becomes Syndrome.  Syndrome’s antics later cause Mr. Incredible to come out of hiding and resume his crime-fighting career.  It’s a kinda cool pattern to watch out for.

– Dan Pilditch

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