A few months ago, I bemoaned the lack of psycho-drama in the mainstream, via the medium of Event Horizon review; back in the 90s,
I was in a very famous TV show there was an uptick in those kinds of gloomy, introspective horrors in the blockbuster realm, and I want to see that come back.
And it was while watching Law Abiding Citizen (my latest excursion into the GBCU, Gerard Butler Cinematic Universe), it struck me that there is another genre that we have left back in the nineties which I would very much like to see a return, and that is the silly blockbuster thriller.
The Bone Collector, Single White Female, Basic Instinct – you know the genre of which I speak. A daft premise, a po-faced execution, some delightful inherent camp mixed in with the whole thing that gives them an endless rewatch value. I want more of that in my blockbuster cinema! I want absurd twisty-turny plots and scenery-chewing performances and just that sly sense of batshit insanity that keeps things interesting, you know?
Of course, leave it up to Gerard Butler to answer all of my prayers (well, not all of them. Still waiting on that one where he turns up at my door in nothing but a trench coat, but I’ll wait). While Law Abiding Citizen might be dressed up in the washed-out cinematography and dramatic soundtrack of a serious move of its era, this 2009 flick is anything but serious, and I think I might be a little in love with it.
Law Abiding Citizen was dreadfully reviewed when it came out, but I am here to try and single-handedly rehabilitate its image and use my powers for good for a change. The approach, I feel, of reviewers at the time was generally and understandably wrong; Jamie Foxx starring in a crime thriller all shot in grey, it seems to set itself up as something serious, and that’s the basis upon which people were judging it. But now, and as part of the increasingly deranged GBCU, it’s easy to see Law Abiding Citizen for what it is, which is Butler’s transition from rom-commery to madcap action nonsense, and man, is it fucking glorious.
Butler plays a man who bore witness to the murder of his wife and child and felt as though justice was not served on the men who committed those murders; cue five years later, as he begins to wreak his elaborate and Kramer-esque revenge on those he feels allowed for this miscarriage of justice. We’re talking a prison-tunnel, we’re talking underground bunkers, we’re talking miniature remote-control tanks – this is the most undeniably extra approach to violent revenge I can think of, and Butler is bringing that amazingly fun Den of Thieves energy to this role. Even though he’s clearly in the wrong, there’s almost no point during this entire film that I’m not rooting for Butler’s character, simply because he seems to be having such a goddamn lot of fun with it. Jamie Foxx is tasked with trying to keep the film in the realm of normality, but every time the story actually lets go and has some fun, it is so deliciously reminiscent of those classic nineties thrillers that I miss so much.
Does the plot hold together? Of course it doesn’t. But you listen to Gerard Butler failing to do an American accent while he eats steak with his hands and tell me that you’re not having a good time. This is the energy I want to see back in the world of thrillers – less of the style, more of the daftness, more of the intense commitment to getting away with the most ridiculous shit you can in the hands of actors who really seem to know how to deliver it. I am more than ready to see this kind of thriller make a comeback, and honestly, Law Abiding Citizen (and the just stupidly watchable Gerard Butler performance at the centre of it) should be the blueprint for what comes next.
By Lou MacGregor
(header image via Chicago Sentinel)