Dir. F. Gary Gray. USA. 2009.

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This film mixes emotions and changes your expectations of film stars, taking the two stars and there engineered star personas and invert them to create a different film experience. Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler are the two stars; one an arrogant District Attorney and one the vengeful husband seeking retribution for the death of his wife and child.
The film starts with violence; two masked criminals enter Clyde Shelton's (Butler) house in an attempt to rob goods, whereupon they take a different angle leading to the rape and murder of his wife and slaughter of his only young daughter.  Flash forward to Nick Rice (Foxx) the DA who makes a deal for the murderer to go free, in spite of clear evidence and DNA samples.  This switches Clyde from a loving father who seeks answers to go and get them himself, promising to inflict pain and suffering upon everyone connected with the law which led to a killer going free.  We end up with 'Death Wish' for the 21st century.
Shelton shows a level of invention unique to a mastermind, he is a tinkerman with patents and his mind is his weapon, and it is all the more surprising as he ends up in jail and yet people are still being killed, Rice believes he has an accomplice on the outside so the film becomes a cat and mouse thriller as Rice locks analytical horns with Shelton to beat him and his accomplice.
Written by Kurt Wimmer, who gave us 'The Recruit', it features similar pacing and narrative content - it attempts to hoodwink you by manipulating the audience emotions by saying it is going this way and then suddenly something else happens that surprises you again.  All characters are made suspicious or one we should be aware of.
This is sometimes confusing for viewers, as it distracts from the entertainment on value.  Foxx bites into his role as a smug DA showing one side and then another; whilst Butler plays the grieving husband well before becoming all thunder and bluster as he seeks vengeance for his wife and child, but as Foxx asks, 'What would she say?'  Too often the need for order is thrown off cause by the thirst for disorder.  Shelton's wish is that the total use of disorder will bring him this chaos, unfortunately it leads to a whole city being put under martial law.
At times a bit muddled in its chronological order and narrative thrust, there is no indication of how long Shelton has planned all of his action.  But it is worth noting the influence of 'Prison Break' on the film, another note that maybe the better television product is now influencing film unlike the other way round as it happened in the early to mid 1990s.
Entertaining and especially good for fans of 'Hostel' who will indulge in a bit of bone crunching and gory death scenes.  But if you are expecting a rom-com and Butler's chisseled torso, you will sadly be disappointed.
Released and available by Momentum Pictures now on DVD and Blu-Ray, the DVD features are: a behind the scenes featurette, visual effects piece, trailer mash up
Available from £19.99 RRP rated 18 certificate.
Jamie Garwood

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