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Dramatic thriller slightly off mark.

If you enjoy a good thriller with dramatic action and deep physiological elements that leave your brain reeling, this film might disappoint you. Although it has been pegged by many critics as a cinematic gem, this particular critic is leaving the decision up to you because this is a movie that personifies the term 'subjective'.

The film opens with Clyde Shelton's wife and daughter being brutally murdered by two haphazard burglars. The city's smooth, slightly egocentric deputy prosecutor, Mr Rice, does some plea-bargaining and ensures the death sentence for one of the crooks but only five years in prison for the other.

However, Clyde is still devastated by his loss and clearly isn't satisfied with the result. So, he decides to take the law into his own hands and punish the men responsible for his family's deaths ... and everyone else who is even slightly connected to the case, not that he's over reacting or anything!

Director Gary Gray seems determined to get the audience worked up early in the movie in order to establish sympathy for the sole survivor of the attack, the bereaved father and husband.

Under the circumstances it's hard not to empathise with poor Clyde's plight, I mean, if someone killed your family you'd be pretty upset too (especially if they didn't have life insurance).

Interestingly enough, just when you think you know where your loyalties fall, time goes forward 10 years and the line between empathy and ambiguity becomes blurred. Clarence Darby, the murderer who managed to escape justice, meets his end in a very gruesome and frankly disturbing way ... along the same lines as some of the death sequences in Eli Roth's Hostel.

Now here's where things get a little psychological, Clyde admits to the murder and doesn't even pretend to deny it, in fact, he confesses ... with pride and an ear-to-ear grin on his face nonetheless!

Needless to say he is sentenced to life in prison (ironically longer than Clarence got for the crimes at the start of the film), and for some reason, doesn't seem to be too bothered about it. Rice and his family find themselves caught up in the carnage while Clyde plots his vengeance from inside his prison cell.

The audience now faces a dilemma ... who are we supposed to relate to in this twisted situation? With the father turned psychopath or the lawyer who failed to up hold the principles of justice in order to keep his winning streak in court?

Although the plot is sound in theory, and the basic premise for the film is actually quite clever, it just doesn't seem to come together on the screen. This is a great idea for a film, a deranged genius who is somehow able to commit revenge murders from his jail cell and he doesn't hide the fact he's a killer ... he announces each murder just before it happens.

In my humble opinion, this film fails to live up to its potential, which is such a shame because it really does have all the elements of a great thriller.

Credit where it is due, Butler does do a remarkable job in his role and, at least for a little while, manages to really draw sympathy for his character. Jamie Foxx also deserves a mention for his performance, his facial expressions add an emotive element to the flashes of suspense.

Showing in: Cineco, Seef I and Saar Cineplex.

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:Apr 18, 2010
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