The Daily Stream: Law Abiding Citizen Is A Gloriously Trashy, Surprisingly Gory, Incredibly Silly Thriller

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Law Abiding Citizen"

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: Gerard Butler plays a genius (lol) who is forced to watch as his wife and daughter are violently murdered. The killers are caught, and it should be an open and shut case, but hot-shot prosecutor Jamie Foxx ends up cutting a deal with one of the killers. As a result, that murderer is set free after a short prison sentence. This, understandably, does not sit well with Butler's character. So how does he react? By building "Saw"-like death traps and murdering pretty much everyone involved with the case. It's going to be Biblical.

Why It's Essential Viewing

Does anyone even remember "Law Abiding Citizen"? I wouldn't be surprised if the people in the movie forgot about it. Hell, Viola Davis is in this! Viola Freakin' Davis! I bet if you went up to Viola Davis and asked, "Remember 'Law Abiding Citizen'?", she'd give you a blank stare. But this film does exist, I assure you! And it's currently streaming on Netflix. I missed the film in theaters and never bothered to watch it on DVD or Blu-ray, so it took me a while to even watch it. But lately, I find I am fond of getting high and watching movies I have no real investment in, and I had a feeling "Law Abiding Citizen" would be the perfect candidate for such an approach. I was correct!

To be clear: this is not a good movie, so calling it "essential viewing" feels weird. However, "Law Abiding Citizen" is never boring, and that counts for something. This film is kind of like a mash-up of generic legal thrillers and the "Saw" franchise, and the end result is as odd as that sounds. Jamie Foxx is a high-profile attorney who is set to prosecute a case in which two men broke into Gerard Butler's home and murdered his family. Since the legal system has so many loopholes, Foxx's character decides to take an easy route. He cuts a deal: if one of the killers testifies against the other, the testifying killer will get himself a reduced sentence. As bad luck would have it, the guy who cuts the deal is the one who perpetrated the majority of the violence against Butler's family. But Foxx doesn't care about that. He just wants the deal! 

Years later, the killer who made the plea gets out of jail, and Butler's character is ready. He kidnaps the man and tortures him to death, dismembering him bit by bit while the victim is forced to watch via a mirror mounted to the ceiling. After the body parts are found, Butler's character is the obvious suspect in this case, and he's quickly arrested and locked up. But that doesn't stop him! He's such a criminal mastermind that he's able to orchestrate elaborate murders using stuff like robot guns and random explosions. He's basically Jigsaw from "Saw" crossed with the Joker from "The Dark Knight," only he's played by Gerard Butler, which makes this all the more amusing. 

Gerard Butler: B-Movie King

On top of all that, this film is often shockingly violent. I was not expecting the amount of gore that's on display here, splashing across the screen in big red torrents. And then there's the film's location. Rather than have the story set in New York or Los Angeles like so many other thrillers of this nature, "Law Abiding Citizen" takes place in Philadelphia. And it uses a lot of actual Philly locations, too – not just streets in Canada dressed up to look like the City of Brotherly Love. I'm from Philadelphia, so I got a kick out of spotting the various sites the characters encounter along the way. But really, the main draw in "Law Abiding Citizen" is Gerard Butler chewing the scenery.

To be clear: I am not knocking Mr. Butler. It might be weird to imagine him playing a Joker-like criminal mastermind who can design elaborate murder devices, but Butler really leans into the role, and he's clearly having fun here. His character keeps making demands on Foxx, including ordering up a steak dinner and a fancy bed for his prison cell. Butler is one of the kings of modern-day B-movies, and he obviously understands what kind of trash he's working with here. And that's kind of the magic of Gerard Butler in general: he knows when he's making trash, and he's not afraid to embrace it. 

Butler continues to pump out high-octane junk today. He has the "Den of Thieves" sequel on the way, and I can't wait for that. He just recently appeared in the trashy "Copshop." And I hope he keeps on keeping on, because I sincerely can't get enough of Butler understanding the assignment. So, yes, "Law Abiding Citizen" isn't a great movie. But if you're in the mood for cheesy junk featuring Gerad Butler having a grand old time hamming it up, you really can't go wrong here. Especially if you're stoned.