Foxx Does Philly – Movie Round Up Part I

While I still have several posts written in my head about San Diego, they’ve failed to go live due to technical difficulties – I lost my USB cord for my camera, and need to buy a card reader, I accidently deleted the pictures I meant to upload from work from my flash drive, just bonehead stuff.  So, still more San Diego to come!

In the meantime, I figured I do a movie review round – up.  Because, yes, even on our honeymoon, we went to the movies.

lawabidingcitFirst up, Law Abiding Citizen with Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler.  Perhaps, this movie was a little too close to home for me – literally and figuratively.  Filmed in Philadelphia, and at times, almost in my own backyard, Law Abiding Citizen is dark, oh so dark – with ominous clouds, gloomy weather, and with so little color, that the movie could have been shot in black and white.  While appropriate for the story, I suppose, it does nothing for the Philadelpha aesthetic — or city could not have looked uglier.  I guess you couldn’t possible film a taut thriller on a sunny day in Fairmount Park, that would have been too much to ask.

But city love aside, Law Abiding Citizen was just too preposterous for me to bare.  I must have knocked Joe a half a dozen times as I squirmed in my chair, restless with annoyance.   When a District Attorney actually stepped foot in a prison, he got an elbow to the side.  When a capital murder defendant had a bail hearing, he got my foot to his knee.  I just couldn’t take it.

Why does cinema verite not apply to the law?  Why does no one care if they get it right if they’re making a “legal” thriller?  From the moment this film begins, it gets it all wrong.  The movie’s premise is the following – Gerard Butler’s character’s family is slaughtered in a home invasion/sexual assault by two sceevy looking thugs.  The perpetrators are caught, and arrested.  Somehow, the more culpable of the two manages to cut a deal with the prosecutor to testify against the less guilty guy for a hugely reduced sentence.  When the prosecutor explains this to the grieving father Butler, he says things like “there’s a technicality.  We can’t use the DNA found at the scene – the defense was able to suppress it because it was tainted.”  Blah blah blah.  First of all, suppression hearings happen in open court, generally right before the trial starts.  They are not back room maneuvers.  Secondly, this DNA was supposedly DNA found on the little girl, in the house – not DNA recovered from the perpetrators.  An attorney could not suppress it because his client has no privacy interest in the evidence recovered from the crime scene.  I suppose it could have been “tainted” upon collection, but that doesn’t get you suppression, that gets you an argument at trial.  Whatever – why get it right eh?   And there’s Gerard Butler, crying, begging him not to cut a deal, because he was there, and he can identify the perpetrators.  Eh, the Assistant District Attorney Jamie Foxx says, you blacked out, no one will believe you.  I blacked out after, says Butler, I saw everything.  Not good enough.  Not good enough?  Eyewitness testimony to the slaughter of his family is not good enough?  Hmmm — I wish the jury knew that during the last case I lost, where there was no DNA and only eyewitness testimony.

Obviously, I could go on and on about the inaccuracies in the movie.  And, I won’t – go on and on and on – but I will go on a bit more – here’s a for instance:

Jamie Foxx, a star Assistant District Attorney,  interrogates Butler’s character in a state prison facility, in a kind of star chamber, equipped with one way glass and a sound system, in what looks like Eastern State Penitentiary.  A.  Assistant DA’s do not go to prison, unless it’s for line-ups or detainer hearings.  In fact, I’ve met many a DA in the parking lot, completely lost, and befuddled about how to actually get into the prison.  Instead, if a DA needs to talk to an incarcerated individual (a witnesss, not the actual defendant – that’s next), they have their DA Detectives go up to the prison, put them in a van, and either bring them down to the Criminal Justice Center (not City Hall, because DA’s do not work in City Hall) or their office (again, the DA’s off ice is not in City Hall).  Law-Abiding-Citizen-And that’s not because they’re not doing their jobs – on the contrary – C. an Assistant District Attorney is not allowed to speak to a charged murderer, or any charged defendant for that matter.  I guess in this movie, since he was acting as his own attorney, I suppose communication would have been possible, but Police question suspects, not DA’s. There are so many reasons why this is this case, so just trust me on this one.  And, this star chamber, apparently housed at Eastern State Penitentiary, exists no where in Philadelphia.  Murder suspects are brought to the Roundhouse, an incredibly ugly building, rotting from the inside out, in the heart of the historic district, where they are placed in a small interview room, equipped with cameras that are only turned on if the suspect decides he wants to recreate the crime for the camera.  Suspects, during interrogation, are often given hoagies or chinese food, but not Craft-o-Matic beds, or steak dinners from Del Frisco’s. 


There I’m done – I could go on – like I said – and on . . . but let me just finish with a word for the nonlegal minded, those of you who just want to go to a good movie.  This isn’t it.  Even if you know nothing of the law, this movie just doesn’t do it.  The plot, involving high levels of gratuitous gore, is uninspiring, and frankly unoriginal.  Vigilante justice is nothing new, and Butler’s character doesn’t bring anything to the table.  In the beginning you are lead to believe that he’s an ordinary law abiding citizen, but you come to learn he’s actually a government terminator, with a brain so sophisticated only Jamie Foxx and his army of one detective can diffuse it.  Whatever.  If I had any sympathy for the guy – an ordinary shlub taken advantage of and betrayed by the criminal justice system – it was gone once I found out what hypocrite he was.  Here he is, raging against the criminal justice machine, yet he himself was employed as a lethal execution – judge, jury, the works – did his victims get to negotiate – was justice ever served? 


There’s no suspense in this movie.  Of course, Jamie Foxx will find redemption, rise in the ranks, and learn to appreciate his family, his long ignored wife and children.  Whatever. 


Next:  Amelia


  1. Jenny November 27, 2009

    Thanks for the great review! I am in my third year of law school but my husband has already gotten mroe than enough elbows in the sides (and rants afterward complete with big hand gestures), so we’ll skip that one.

  2. Bridget December 1, 2009

    I just suspected this would not be one to see, I don’t know why.

    They didn’t shoot at ESP – Holmesburg, maybe?

  3. admin December 1, 2009

    The arial shots are definitely ESP – it’s the only prison I know of with spikes and a hub. I don’t think any of the interior footage is from ESP. While the arial shots are ESP, the actual footage on the ground is Holmesburg. There’s a scene where they bring Gerard Butler’s character outside the prison to meet with Jamie Foxx (ridiculous!!) – definitely Holmesburg, I’ve been through that gate – it’s right behind death row. Also, the rolling countryside shots are definitely Holmesburg. But some of the outside shots are also ESP, because you can kind of see the neighborhood – it’s kind of like they spliced ESP and Holmesburg together.


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