As preposterous the storyline for Law Abiding Citizen was (a film I rewatched recently), it actually wasn’t as horrible as I expected it to be.
One thing that did surprise me a little was just how sadistic it was for a mainstream studio picture; the opening sequence was especially unexpected.
Anyway, watching it lead me to the following thought: the roles played by the film’s leads (Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx) should have been switched (it was nice to see Viola Davis in there too by the way, despite it being a peripheral part);
Jamie Foxx instead should have played the father who witnesses his family assaulted and murdered, only to see the man largely responsible for the crime make a deal and essentially be set free (sound somewhat familiar?), turning the father into this Charles Bronson-esque Death Wish 1970s-throwback character; or maybe he uses more brains and less braun, or a mixture of both.
If any one group in this country has a reason to turn vigilante in reaction to being on the receiving end of unjust and even unfair treatment by the American judicial system, it’s black men, isn’t it?
Gerard Butler did his job; but really, I’ve seen enough revenge flicks with white men as the revenge-seekers – especially when the vengeance being sought is against some government institution, person, or people; or white men who are just angry for whatever reason, and channel their anger into some self-satisfying action; Whether it’s Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, or Maximus Meridius in The Gladiator, and the countless other instances.
Picture it: black man becomes a vigilante, takes on the killers of his family, and nearly brings down the system (with primarily Caucasians in positions of authority, as it is in real life) that failed him, with devastating, fatal results! The film would suddenly take on a different, maybe more poignant meaning altogether, with race being very much in play.
As the current version of Law Abiding Citizen plays, it seems to want to make some commentary on the failures of the current judicial system, and the loopholes within American law that those in-the-know exploit. All worthy topics, but it doesn’t really work… not for me anyway.
And I don’t entirely blame director F. Gary Gray. The script itself needed a few more rewrites.
In recent years, American media interest seems to have placed its focus more on the so-called “angry black woman;” I certainly hope black men are still just as angry too! Or is it that we’re not allowed to demonstrate our anger; after all, our own President (a black man) has been rendered nearly effete for fear that displays of any kind of “revolutionary blackness,” we can call it, will incite fear and panic amongst the millions of whites (and some blacks) who voted him into office.
We certainly can’t have an “angry black man” as president; neither will we tolerate him on our movie screens either (especially mainstream studio pictures)… unless he’s taking out his vengeance on other black men, of course. Then it’s ok.
I recall a Facebook friend (white and female) actually asked me why I seemed so angry – an opinion she reached based on my status updates and the types of articles I shared on Facebook. I laughed at first; but then I responded (borrowing from Obama actually, after the Henry Louis Gates fiasco) calling it a “teachable moment,” and I did my best to instruct :)
Maybe I should have just responded with the opening line from Public Enemy’s Prophets of Rage track, from the It Takes A Nation Of Millions To hold Us Back LP: A voice (likely a white man’s) states to a black man, “You‘re quite hostile;” And the black man (a sampling of Richard Pryor) responds with, “I got a RIGHT to be hostile, man, my people are being persecuted!”