After the brutal murders of his wife and daughter, Gerard Butler sets out for revenge on the men who destroyed his family and the flawed judicial system that failed him. After first avenging himself on the men who killed his family, Butler sets his sights on the district attorney (Jamie Foxx) who chose the easy route in their prosecution, and the justice system which ultimately failed to deliver any justice. Butler uses a cunning array of traps and masterful deception to work his way into the system, to better lash out at all those who he deems responsible for the miscarriage of justice, until the entire city is locked down and bears witness to his vendetta against the District Attorney’s office.
The chiefest sin of this film is that if fails completely to cast the protagonist and antagonist in the right light. Ostensibly, Butler is an embittered madman vigilante, cutting a bloody path through the system that didn’t give him what he wanted. In truth, he’s a man who was pushed more than most could conceive of being pushed who still (admirably) was ready to let the system dole out the punishment to the men who destroyed his life. Foxx, on the other hand, is an opportunist concerned more with his career than fighting for any real justice and takes the safe way out by plea bargaining with a monster, but is cast as the hero. While the story is strong, the writing is severely flawed. In addition to the poor character development, much of what Butler does is either overly contrived (killing Foxx’s assistants, who are more easily cast as “innocents” in an attempt to recast him as the villain) or simply ludicrous (most of his actions in prison and his escape). The movie gets points for some interesting “kills” by Butler and for its unflinching violence, never backing away from its vengeance mindset, but that is really just attractive window dressing for the flawed delivery of the story.
This is a prime example of unrealized potential due to a film trying to deliver a moral which it didn’t believe. This could have been a great revenge flick, with Butler as the hero. This could have been a good action/suspense flick, with Foxx as the hero. It somehow fails to be either.