LAW ABIDING CITIZEN is one of those movies with a larger-than-life criminal who seems to be one step ahead of the hero the entire film because he has impossible connections, possesses a twisted, genius mind built for crime, and absolutely delights in playing with the hero's mind. Classic films like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, SE7EN, and all of the Nolan BATMAN films feature a powerful villain who seems to know everything and be everywhere at all times. And in those films it works incredibly well, because there seems to be at least some limit to the villain's abilities. In LAW ABIDING CITIZEN, no such limit is found.
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN certainly sets up the premise well enough though. A father (Gerard Butler) watches his wife and daughter raped and murdered before his eyes. The prosecuting attorney (Jamie Foxx) doesn't want to take the case to court because he believes there wasn't sufficient evidence to prove who did the raping and murdering, so one of the two men responsible (the one who actually did the raping and murdering) gets off with five years because he turned on his partner. Good start, right? An angry dad with nothing to lose has a lot of potential. Don't get too excited though, because right after Foxx breaks Butler the news, text flashes on the screen reading "Ten Years Later". Wait, what?
That's where the flaws start. Why is this guy waiting ten years to exact his revenge? Yeah, that's a shitty thing to have happened to him, but come one, at some point during that decade he should have said to himself, "OK, time to move on." But no, a decade is the perfect amount of time to plan and execute his elaborate revenge plot, and so he does.
Here's the thing though: even for a movie, he goes too far. Not only does he kidnap the dude who only got five years in prison, he slowly kills him by removing his limbs one-by-one with a buzz saw. Bad ass? Not really. Unnecessary? Definitely. What point is he trying to make... that criminals who rape and murder deserve a much more gruesome murder than they facilitated?
Gerard Butler's larger-than-life-ness is also much larger than the larger-than-life you'd expect. The movie is essentially made up of a number of twists that show how powerful this guy really is. For instance, while investigating all of the dude's past decade worth of criminal activities, Jamie Foxx and his associates find out that his profession was to assemble devices for the CIA to help assassinate "evil" people. They also learn that he owns a couple dozen giant warehouses and other buildings in and around Philadelphia, where the movie is set. These discoveries raise a few questions. First, why didn't they find out what his profession was during the investigation of his wife's and daughter's murders? Wouldn't the fact that he was in the CIA likely be relevant to his wife and daughter being murdered? Second, how was he able to afford that many properties? All he did was work for the CIA. That's like six figures at most, and this dude owns more of Philadelphia than Comcast.
While there are a number of absurd plot points in this movie—Gerard Butler has tunneled to every single solitary confinement cell in the Philly prison he fortunately ends up being held in and no one has noticed, he's able to sneak a gigantic weaponized bomb disposal robot into a cemetery during a funeral, he's a part-time employee at City Hall while in prison and no one recognizes him—it was actually an enjoyable movie to watch. Just don't think about it when you're watching it, and don't think about it after watching it (steer clear of thoughts that begin with, "But wait why did..."), and you'll view it as a positive experience.