This is a gritty violent story of prosecuting DA attorney, Nick Rice, played by Jamie Foxx, who only takes cases he knows he can win, and plea bargains the weak cases so he can play the legal system in order to maintain a high record of wins to better his career. In other words, he doesn’t really care about justice, and be bargains with murderers, and then he justifies his actions by an appeal to pragmatism, you get the best deal you can with an imperfect system. Along comes an inventor Clyde, played by Gerard Butler, whose family is killed by scum, and who experiences the injustice of our legal system as one of them gets away for plea bargaining, led by Nick, and against Clyde’s wishes. Well, I don’t know if this is possible, but the point of the movie is to show that our legal system is corrupted by this kind of bargaining with murderers and results in injustice through compromise with evil.
Clyde’s response is to snap and plan retribution for 10 years through his inventive mind. He hacks into the system and makes the one killer’s lethal injection execution a torturous event, and captures the other killer and brutally tortures him before killing him. Then Clyde hands himself in and in a poignant moment at his own defense for bail, he quotes legal precedent to convince the judge to let him go without bail. Then when she is persuaded, Clyde chastises her that this is what’s wrong with the system. He clearly should not be allowed to be let free, yet, he just used the rules to manipulate her and she bought it. He heaps insults upon her for her moral idiocy and deliberately loses the appeal and lands in jail. Then, while in jail, has worked out a way to start killing everyone connected to his case, from the judge to each of the lawyers, while he is in prison. Meanwhile, each time, he makes ridiculous demands, such as receiving a steak dinner and an ipod in prison, or he will kill the next person.
When Nick accuses Clyde of sick vengeance, Clyde tells him if he wanted vengeance, he could have killed everyone years ago. No, he is making a point, he is going to bring down the whole justice system to make that point. But what is the point? Well, we learn at the end, when Nick figures out how Clyde is able to do these killings and he turns Clyde’s inventions against him. Nick finally says, he won’t make any more deals with murderers like Clyde, and Clyde says now you finally get it. In other words, the whole moral of the movie is that justice doesn’t make deals with murderers, you’ll just get more mayhem because evil people will only use deals as weakness to exploit and will continue to do evil until they are forcibly stopped. Law Abiding Citizen is not merely a vengeance movie about vigilante violence, it is a moral fable that condemns our legal system. It makes the argument that making deals with murderers only results in more murder, that plea bargaining results in high recidivism rates of criminals being released into society only to rape and kill again and again.
In light of the current geopolitical events in Iran, I suspect the filmmakers may also be making an analogy to making deals with terrorists and fanatical dictators, which only result in perceived weakness by said terrorists as an opportunity to exploit for more power and violence.