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I don’t fucking care if you like it | by maryann johanson

Law Abiding Citizen (review)

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Vengeance Is Ours, At Any Price

It had me at kaboom, this thorny moral conundrum of a film, and kept me for a long time. Kept me wondering who was the good guy and who was the villain until I started to dare to believe that maybe this would be the rare studio film that doesn’t feel the need to break things down so prettily. Kept me marveling at how the gray areas were staying gray and the complicated, no-easy-answers stuff kept getting more complicated. And then it lost me, nay, threw me overboard when it threw out all the tricksy pointedness and threw its lot in with those who are willing to throw out the baby of the American legal system with the bathwater of its problems.
It’s all about the brokenness of our criminal justice system, this Law Abiding Citizen flick, which anyone can see is broken to the point at which you want to despair that it will never, can never be fixed. It opens with that kaboom of a bang, a home invasion in which a mother and her daughter are brutally murdered — the “scene of rape” the rating mentions occurs here, though it was nothing more than a suggestion; I think director F. Gary Gray (Be Cool, The Italian Job) must have done some last minute editing — and the husband and father is the only survivor. Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler: Gamer, The Ugly Truth) gets another punch in the gut when the district attorney, Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx: The Soloist, The Kingdom) tells him that he’s made a deal that will put one of the killers on death row but will free the other one — the far more vicious one — in a mere few years.

It’s a not unfamiliar scenario to anyone who reads the papers or, indeed, has seen even a single episode of Law and Order. But this is only the beginning. Instead of Sam Waterston fretting over the compromises that have to be made in order to put bad guys behind bars, we have Gerard Butler being badass: he’s not going to take this injustice sitting down. So, ten years later — as the condemned murderer is finally up for execution — he reappears to begin wreaking havoc on everyone he deems worthy of furthering injustice, from the murderers themselves to those in the DA’s office.

One bizarre visual confluence Gray throws at us early in the film struck me, and though I was willing to put it down at the time as a momentary aberration, by the end of the film, when the film finally decided that it didn’t like shades of gray after all, it was clear that that moment was making a deliberate statement after all. Gray cuts quickly from the execution to the cello recital of Rice’s ten-year-old daughter, and it was only later that I realized he was saying: “This [the execution] is what we have to do to keep this [our children] safe.” That’s not something I agree with, but mere disagreement is not why I ultimately found Citizen so distasteful. It’s because the film — the script is by Kurt Wimmer (Street Kings, Ultraviolet) — is so emblematic of the unpleasant streak that runs through the American zeitgeist today, the one that took root after 9/11 and appears to be settling into stay: that we have to do away with what makes America America — like the rule of law and that pesky Constitution — in order to “save” America.

It’s easy to feel Shelton’s rage at a system that cannot guarantee maximum punishment for those who do wrong… and part of that is down to Butler, who manages to compel our sympathy even after Shelton has clearly gone down the road of the psychopath. It’s easy to feel Rice’s frustration at a system that sometimes has to let the guilty go free because it is designed foremost to protect the innocent… and part of that is down to Foxx, whose power as a screen presence more than transcends how underwritten his role is. And it’s easy to forgive the movie-standard preposterousness the plot must go through in order for Shelton to carry out his plan to make those pay who make others suffer, and to teach a lesson to those who would set wrongdoers free, however unwillingly.

What isn’t forgivable, however, is Citizen’s apparent unwillingness to either go the full distance or to see the upshot of what it advocates. Near the end of the film, Shelton informs Rice that his campaign of terror against the city — ironically, Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love and the home of the American Revolution — is “gonna bring it all down,” this corrupt system, and that “it’s gonna be biblical.” I had already given up, at this point, but suddenly I had new hope. Where are the movies that have any ideas about how to really fix things? Doesn’t anyone have even a radical notion of what it would take? For a moment, I hoped that we were in for a Fight Club-esque finale, something that could be a real gamechanger. Instead, however, we have Rice, who has been a stickler for the rules — and with good reason — all along, saying, “Fuck his [Shelton’s] civil rights.”

Part of me would like to take Rice’s sudden sympathy with Shelton — a psychopathic terrorist — as something of a warning against letting oneself get manipulated into doing things totally contrary to one’s beliefs. (You know, kinda how Osama Bin Laden could claim a victory when the U.S. reduced its own freedoms after 9/11.) But that’d be a stretch, because that “Fuck his civil rights” line is meant to get a big ol’ cheer out of the audience: it is Rice’s moment of triumph, and the movie’s, the moment in which “good” supposedly will finally give “evil” the smackdown it’s asking for.

But if Law Abiding Citizen wants to be a story about an ordinary man — Shelton — who takes back a power he believes has been given up to those in charge — Rice — a power those in charge have abused, why is it ultimately espousing a route that would do nothing but give those in authority even more power over ordinary people? If Shelton’s civil rights are fucked, then so are yours and mine.

It makes no damn sense whatsoever, and I doubt those cheering it on have any idea what, exactly, they’re cheering on.

MPAA: rated R for strong bloody brutal violence and torture, a scene of rape, and pervasive language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • Accounting Ninja

    And once again, the murder and/or rape of women is used as a catalyst for a male character’s story. Just sayin.

  • http://toniokruger.blogspot.com Tonio Kruger

    I remember film critic John Bloom making a similar complaint about First Blood back in the 1980s, only to be drowned in the chorus of critical voices praising that film for its sympathetic portrayal of Vietnam veterans.

    Thank you for writing this.

    Do I need to point out the similarities between what this film advocates and what Michael Corleone does at the end of the first two Godfather films? After all, he was just trying to keep his family safe too…

  • MaryAnn

    And once again, the murder and/or rape of women is used as a catalyst for a male character’s story. Just sayin.

    But the wimmens, they needs protectin’!

  • Les Carr

    And if you prefer your strong, bloody, brutal violence, rape and torture to be suitable for family viewing without pervasive language there’s always “Taken”.

    They should have known better than to go messing with the menfolk’s wimmens!

  • Scott

    And once again, the murder and/or rape of women is used as a catalyst for a male character’s story. Just sayin.

    I thought the catalyst was the injustice of the legal system that allowed one of the assailants to basically walk free?

  • Grinebiter

    “This [the execution] is what we have to do to keep this [our children] safe.”

    Back in the days of the Cold War, I longed for this kind of cut — from nukes over Washington and London to a little Russian girl playing the violin….. the understood line being much the same as what you said. Not that I wanted it to happen to either side, of course, or thought the equation sound in either direction, but was just motivated by Robbie Burns — “to see ourselves as others see us”.

    …. because that “Fuck his civil rights” line is meant to get a big ol’ cheer out of the audience…..

    Can you say “Emmanuel Goldstein”?

  • Ide Cyan

    Yet another Women in Refrigerators movie.

    And it’s always about revenge and scorched Earth tactics. These raging men would rather pick up guns and kill people rather than, say, attack the causes of criminality by fighting poverty, corruption and inadequate laws by doing something less than nihilistic. The Shock Doctrine doesn’t make anybody safer.

  • Accounting Ninja

    I thought the catalyst was the injustice of the legal system that allowed one of the assailants to basically walk free?

    But women still had to die. Any violent crime could have been used. But no, women have to die (and get raped- the enemy defiled your woman before she died! The ultimate insult to any red-blooded Rambo!) for maximum emotional impact. Even if it’s a woman who’s getting revenge, then SHE has to get raped and/or almost die.

    @ Ide Cyan, yup. It’s a trope so common…

  • Jason

    Dang. I had high hopes that this would stay gray. I really did.

    A better movie could condemn both sides here (even if it didnt try to give any answers).

  • Jason

    I also wondered though, what could Rice possibly do to Shelton at this point? When your wife and daughter are raped/murdered, what more do you have to lose? Wouldnt Shelton causing Rice to break the rules be sortof a joker-esque victory? I would have laughed in Rice’s face when he tried to threaten to make me ‘pay’.

  • JoshB

    Fuck his civil rights

    Ha! Yeah, that’s liberal Hollywood for ya.

    But no, women have to die (and get raped- the enemy defiled your woman before she died! The ultimate insult to any red-blooded Rambo!)…Even if it’s a woman who’s getting revenge, then SHE has to get raped.

    It’s strange. My first instinct was to disagree you here. I always figured that the reason rape is used so often in this fashion is that it’s an easy storytelling shortcut to EVIL!ifying your villain. Rape is an intrinsically sadistic crime, moreso even than murder.

    But then I thought back to recent events, specifically the Polanski mess and the Al Franken anti-rape amendment that somehow was not unanimously passed.

    As a society, do we or do we not think that rape is an Extremely Bad Thing? How to reconcile the constant rapesploitation in movies with the shrug-and-oh-well attitude noted above?

    Is it really that men only care about rape if it happens to someone they love, and even then only because it insults their masculinity?

  • NRB

    If there’s one good thing about a movie like this, it’s that it stirs up the pro-criminal liberals into a frenzy.

    You’ll note that the only negative thing that all of these left-wing “journalists” are focusing on is the fact that the bad guys finally get what they deserve.

    And that includes those in the “justice” system who continuously let criminals off the hook to victimize more innocent people.

    I say, don’t pay attention to the whining about vigilantes. The only time these idiot liberal movie reviewers ever have a problem with violence in a movie is when it’s directed at the RIGHT people: criminals.

    Remember, liberalism is a mental disorder. Not a philosopy.

  • MaryAnn

    And that includes those in the “justice” system who continuously let criminals off the hook to victimize more innocent people.

    That’s right: It’s all about DAs gleefully letting criminals off the hook. Cuz it’s fun! And it’s got nothing to do with the system being the way it is in order to protect the accused.

    NRB: Do you honestly believe that everyone accused of a crime is guilty?

    Movies like this one make everything seem so cut-and-dried. But it’s very rarely that way in real life. The number of people who’ve been exonerated based on DNA evidence after spending years in prison, convicted on supposedly unimpeachable eyewitness testimony (which is far from unimpeachable, actually) bears this out.

    Does it suck that some guilty people walk free? Sure it does. But it sucks more when innocent people are imprisoned — or executed! — for crimes they did not commit. That’s the idea behind our criminal justice system: that it’s better that ten guilty people go free than one innocent person suffer for something he or she did not do.

    Also: the civil rights thing is to protect the people from the tyranny of those in power. It astonishes me how supposed conservatives who rail again big government don’t understand this.

    I wonder how the likes of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams would be treated by today’s “conservatives.”

  • http://toniokruger.blogspot.com Tonio Kruger

    If there’s one good thing about a movie like this, it’s that it stirs up the pro-criminal liberals into a frenzy.

    Ah, yes, it seems obvious from the number of “love letters” written to that sob Roman Polanski on a recent thread that we’re just one wild and crazy gang of pro-criminal liberals here on this site.

    I’m so glad that NRB pointed out that because otherwise, it would have escaped my notice…

  • NRB

    The number of people who’ve been exonerated based on DNA evidence after spending years in prison, convicted on supposedly unimpeachable eyewitness testimony (which is far from unimpeachable, actually) bears this out.

    Well that’s fantastic. So out of all the 227 people cleared by DNA evidence since 1989…how many murderers/rapists are let out early from their sentences so that they can pray on more victims?

    But I guess that doesn’t matter. What’s important here is that the rights of criminals are protected.

    You said it yourself.

    And like I said before, liberalism is a mental disorder. And you cannot argue against someone who’s brain doesn’t work correctly.

    Feelin’ sorry for ya bro. Later.

  • Alli

    Remember, liberalism is a mental disorder. Not a philosopy.

    Is it an internet rule that all trolls must make at least one spelling mistake in each of their flames?

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    And like I said before, liberalism is a mental disorder.

    You can say it all you want, but it’s still horseshit. The American Psychiatric Association seems oddly uninterested in calling you for your no-doubt superior wisdom on the matter.

    And you cannot argue against someone who’s brain doesn’t work correctly.

    Transl. – “I’m sorry I’m useless at debate, but that’s your fault, not mine!” This must be that superior sense of ‘personal responsibility’ we’re always hearing conservatives have.

  • MaSch

    It’s always funny when people whose mind works in very special and obscure ways stumble upon a piece of wisdom, such as:

    And you cannot argue against someone who’s brain doesn’t work correctly.

    I think we may all agree on that one, but our views upon the issue whose brain it is which does not work correctly might differ.

  • Grinebiter

    So, a conservative is someone who opposes political correctness (PC) in the name of cerebral correctness (CC)?

  • LaSargenta

    By JoshB: Is it really that men only care about rape if it happens to someone they love, and even then only because it insults their masculinity?

    No. It is property damage. Valuble property…the most valuable they’ve got, but it is seen as destruction of something that is “Mine”. Not something that is destruction of something that is “Hers”.

    ******************

    I saw the trailer for this movie a few weeks ago when I went to see District 9. The trailer made it look pretty ideologically black-and-white and not terribly interesting — another justice-isn’t-just-and-I’m-going-my-own-way movie with another main character who was a loving father but seems to have no friends nor family to either support him in his grief and rage or try and put the breaks on him when he becomes psychopathic.

  • MaryAnn

    What’s important here is that the rights of criminals are protected.

    One of the most disturbing things about a movie like *Law Abiding Citizen* is that it plugs right into the mindset of people like NRB, who clearly do not understand that not everyone accused of a crime is guilty of that crime. Because in their heads, even though they disdain government and insist loudly that authority cannot be trusted, they’re perfectly willing to believe that cops and DAs can never be wrong, either deliberately or accidentally.

    And movies like this one only reinforce that bizarre dichotomy. If *LAC* had any balls, it would leave the audience — and the Butler character — in doubt as to whether the men accused of committing the horrible crimes that open the film actually did so. It might even never resolve that mystery. But that would be a far harder question about what constitutes “justice” than this movie is willing to ask.

  • MaryAnn

    I wonder how NRB would feel about the rightness of imprisoning innocent people if it were him behind bars for something he hadn’t done…

  • Accounting Ninja

    No. It is property damage. Valuble property…the most valuable they’ve got, but it is seen as destruction of something that is “Mine”. Not something that is destruction of something that is “Hers”.

    Plus, the “ick” factor a lot of men have re: sloppy seconds. Just thinking that another man’s dick has been in that hole really skeeves some guys out. Even if we are just talking about women’s sexual histories and not rape.

    But if it’s rape then murder, then there’s the added insult of her having been dirtied by a strange penis before her death. Double points if it’s the daughter, too.

  • Grinebiter

    I wonder how NRB would feel about the rightness of imprisoning innocent people if it were him behind bars for something he hadn’t done…

    MaryAnn, I had a Torygraph-reading father who ranted about how it were better for nine innocent men to be hanged than one guilty man to go free. (If one pointed out that the nine innocent men being hanged by definition leads to to the one guilty man going free, he would, of course, win the argument by losing his temper.) So I have had reason to meditate on the phenomenon.

    Now, how do we diagnose this? One approach might be that in my experience, at least the extreme conservatives are anti-Kantians; that is, they cannot universalise; that is again, they cannot conceive of rules that apply equally to them as to everyone else. In their own minds, they are one thing and everyone else is another thing. This we may call socialisation failure.

    To put it another way, this kind of conservative is an aristocrat in his own eyes, he thinks only about doing unto others and never about the others doing unto him. (Which is why we should hold a Jacquerie now and then, to remind him of the possibility.)

    A second approach is that this type of conservative’s conviction of his own righteousness is so intense that he cannot conceive of his doing something wrong, or even of other people incorrectly considering that he has done something wrong. He is Good, ergo nothing bad can happen to him. This we may call megalomania, or narcissism.

    Yet another approach would invoke Jungian projection; that this kind of conservative is so rabid about social monsters because, somewhere deep down, perhaps below the self-satisfaction of the second approach, he recognises himself as another one.

  • Grinebiter

    Plus, the “ick” factor a lot of men have re: sloppy seconds.

    Except that some men actively seek it out, as in a (condom-less) gang-bang, and perhaps also in bukake. Male bonding via the mixture of semen, like in ceremonies of blood-brotherhood?

  • http://www.dubhsidhestudios.com bronxbee

    i think we should seek new classifications for a discussion such as this. “liberal” and “conservative” are ideologies too broad-based to be of any real meaning for a specific topic like this one. not all liberals are anti-death penalty for instance, not all conservatives are christians. perhaps using nonsense terms like “Kravners” and “Magglers” would take some of the sting out of the personalization of this kind of dialogue.

  • LaSargenta

    By bronxbee: not all liberals are anti-death penalty for instance, not all conservatives are christians.

    Yup. And, even if something does fit the stereotype on the surface, often it might have a totally different context. For example, my take on the death penalty: I am completely against it (I am also, by some standards, so far on the left you can only see me using special political spectrum technology.) HOWEVER, I am against it because I do not think it is an adequate expression of “paying one’s debt to society” for some crimes — and I have even gotten some truly right-wing friends and acquaintences to agree with me. In cases where the death penalty seems like an appropriate punishment, I think that for the surviving families and friends of the victims and the community at large actually need the convicted criminal to be kept alive at all costs and imprisoned for life with tapes and videos made by all the survivors talking about the person(s) who died and how this affected the living and their lives. These would be played constantly and could not be turned off.

    Death is, although immense, amazingly easy. There is no further opportunity for remorse, for guilt, for atonement. And for the community, there is a cheapening of the event by intimating that a life for a life is enough.

  • http://toniokruger.blogspot.com Tonio Kruger

    Is it really that men only care about rape if it happens to someone they love, and even then only because it insults their masculinity?

    A number of posts on the Observe and Report and the Roman Polanski threads would seem to indicate otherwise.

    Unless, of course, you prefer to believe that the male posters on those threads weren’t men…

  • LaSargenta

    A number of posts on the Observe and Report and the Roman Polanski threads would seem to indicate otherwise.

    Well, as much as I think I’m an optimist and I’d really like to think that there are loads of men who are against rape, sometimes I’ve witnessed an interesting phenomenon in groups that officially value women (usually a political group of some kind, or a religious one) and one or more of the women gets victimised in some way. I have seen men completely take over the whole discussion and handling of the situation, even if they are in the minority, and often in a near rage state. Now, I’m all for men working with other men to stop rape and molestation. But, the reactions I saw — and other women with me — seemed outsized as well as proprietary and many of us women wondered if the reaction of the men wasn’t a kind of co-opting of the women’s point of view to cover up something they were terrified of seeing in themselves.

    Of course, given the fact this is based on a few situations I was in personally, this comment is TOTALLY based on anecdata. Please don’t infer any sweeping generalizations.

  • JoshB

    A number of posts on the Observe and Report and the Roman Polanski threads would seem to indicate otherwise.

    But here’s my problem: I would imagine all those Hollywood (and otherwise) Polanski supporters would say that rape is just horrible, right up until their buddy is the rapist. Then all of a sudden it’s not that big a deal, just get over it. I read one women on HuffPo who actually compared the situation with America’s reaction to Nipplegate.

    Same with the Republicans who voted against the Franken amendment. No doubt they rail violently (a la our pal NRB) against about the criminals out to violate our women and children!…unless they’ve got to choose between hatred of those criminals and protecting campaign contributions.

    It’s just disturbing to wonder whether the general societal hatred of rape that I always took for granted may be more shallow and malleable than it seems.

  • Grinebiter

    @Bronxbee: Yes, you’re right. My father having been a Labour voter at the same time as an unbeliever in due process, I am quite aware of the inadequacies of the left-right axis, and was using conservative specifically to mean social-conservative, or perhaps just “the sort of person who spouts this stuff about suspects having no rights”. Sorry for the implication that everyone right of a certain point was that psychological type, that wasn’t really what I intended. I did say “this type”, but should maybe have tried even harder. I’m all for creating an association-free terminology along the lines you suggest.

    @LaSargenta: the mechanism you suggest sounds credible to me. Ever read the Father Brown stories? The priest makes a good detective because he is acquainted with the evil in his own heart, and can easily put himself in the position of the criminal in order to ask why and how he might have dunnit. In my opinion, all men (and women!) should be aware of their own potential for crime, for whatever value of “potential”, and nothing useful is achieved by projection-mechanisms. Another mechanism might be, however, to pre-empt attack from “all men are rapists” feminists in the vicinity, real or imagined, in just the same way that Party members under Stalin had to outdo one another in denunciation of counter-revolution, lest they be fingered for the Gulag. These two mechanisms might even reinforce one another.

    @Josh: What was the Franken amendment?

  • JoshB

    For Grinebiter.

    The upshot if you don’t feel like reading:

    would withhold defense contracts from companies like Halliburton if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court.

    This is the story that prompted Franken (20/20 video on youtube, 10:24 minutes.)

  • Paul

    Two Chinese literary classics also have the woman’s tragic death pushing man’s plot along theme, but in a different direction. In “DReam of Red Mansions,” the hero is drugged by his own family to marry another woman for her money, so his beloved commits suicide and he, upon recovering and learning what happened, eventually abandons his family, detaches from the material life, and becomes what we’d call a saint.

    In an erotic novel, a man abandons his wife, has years of erotic adventures, learns of the most famous courtesan in the empire, and when he goes to meet her discovered that she is his wife; she’d become a courtesan to survive. I believe the shame of it all drove her to suicide (I remember she died somehow from all this) and he became a monk and achieved enlightnment, as did his erotic mentor.

    However, if any of you would like to read the reverse, I suggest David Weber’s “Honor Harrington” series. It’s a British feminist royal navy in outer space opera sort of series. The first book is the story of her first command, the third book is about her meeting Mr. Right while beating the bad guys, and the fourth book is about his being murdered by her political enemies and she gets out the dueling pistols to take them out. Or maybe that was the fifth.

    As for the political side of all this, the more vile the crime the sloppier the police become because of political pressure to “solve” the case. Several years ago Illinois suspended the death sentence because DNA evidence showed that a 1/3 of the people on their death row hadn’t committed the crime they were there for; I don’t know if it was ever reinstated.

  • Grinebiter

    @Josh. Thanks! From my own observation in another country, I share the scepticism of binding arbitration. It may be fast and cheap, but due process it isn’t, precisely because it can’t be appealed.

    Moreover, for me it’s a no-brainer that arbitration should be reserved for two more or less equal partners, such as two companies bickering over a contract. That a corporation can designate its own arbitrators to hear a case brought by an employee is outrageous. Regardless of whether it’s rape or something else. Where I live, the standard procedure for all arbitration is you pick yours, I pick mine, and the two of them pick a chair; if they can’t agree, the president of the district court picks one. Labour disputes, however, go to labour court, which is a union rep, an employee rep and a judge sitting together, with majority vote. And their ruling can be appealed to the appellates, the supremes and Strasbourg. I’m cool with that, wouldn’t you be?

    @Paul: In Cook Co. there was a case of a man convicted of a crime despite the excellent alibi of being in prison at the time.

  • Grinebiter

    Recte: … “a union rep, an employer rep and a judge….”

  • bracyman

    For the record, I’m male, so take the following with a grain of salt. It’s kind of hard to have a middle ground reaction to rape. Regardless of any relation having been raped, the vast majority of reaction is rage and disgust.

    I’m not denying that the rape and murder of the wife/girlfriend/daughter is a much abused trope. I am trying to figure out what kind of reaction Grinebiter and LaSargenta are OK with? Shouldn’t the husband be enraged that something so horrible happened to people he loved? And outraged that the legal system could at the same time find someone guilty of the crime and hand out a reduced sentence?

    There doesn’t have to be a personal connection to be angry at crime and injustice. Plenty of people were enraged at the Enron scandal, even those who didn’t lose money. Maybe I just don’t understand the problem, but why is a passionate effort to fight a crime like rape something negative?

  • MaryAnn

    Maybe I just don’t understand the problem, but why is a passionate effort to fight a crime like rape something negative?

    But this movie isn’t about “a passionate effort to fight a crime like rape.” This movie is about trashing the U.S. Constitution for doing the very job it was designed, in one part, to do — make it *very hard* for the government to put someone in prison without a *very good* case for it — by setting up an extreme example (almost a straw man example) of an instance of the unfortunate flip side: that sometimes the guilty go free when we strive to ensure that no one innocent is imprisoned.

    Is the system perfect? No. Do innocent people frequently get railroaded? Yes. Do guilty people sometimes go free? Yes. But the fix for that is not “fuck civil rights.” I don’t know what the solution is. Neither does this movie. All it cares about is getting the blood boiling in people who don’t understand the civil rights they currently enjoy, and hence don’t understand what they’re saying when they come out in favor of abandoning them.

    I’m not denying that the rape and murder of the wife/girlfriend/daughter is a much abused trope. I am trying to figure out what kind of reaction Grinebiter and LaSargenta are OK with? Shouldn’t the husband be enraged that something so horrible happened to people he loved? And outraged that the legal system could at the same time find someone guilty of the crime and hand out a reduced sentence?

    You already understand what we’re bitching about: the abuse of the trope. If this were the only movie ever to have used such a setup, I doubt we’d be complaining. It’s a cheat on the movie’s part and it insults the audience. It assumes — and perhaps rightly so — that a less emotionally wrought crime would be harder to get an audience riled up about. But that’s the whole point of our criminal justice system: it’s supposed to remove, as much as possible, the emotion and the subjectiveness from the process. A movie like this is so entirely antithetical to a civilized process of justice that it indicts itself… except that most people won’t ever think about it that way, and will only whoop and cheer and call it a good time at the movies.

  • Grinebiter

    @Braceyman: You make it sound as if LaSargenta is an apologist for rape, and me too for nodding at her description of particular reactions now and then that struck her as phoney. I doubt she meant it to apply to everyone, and neither of us were addressing this particular movie scenario.

    To answer the question in your last line, passionate sympathy for the victim is not the problem; the problem is passionate outrage with a particular man, who may or may not be the perpetrator.

    I’m surprised no one has mention the Strange Fruit scenario in this context. Now there’s an example of intense male outrage over rape. One can hardly fault the indignation, the disgust, the passion, and the will to take direct and immediate action. And no doubt any man who wouldn’t join the lynch party was accused of excusing the rapist. Never mind the guilt or innocence, feel the emotions. Social permission to kill, nice for some. An echo of this may have been what LaSargenta was picking up.

    Me, I’m not pro-rape. I’m pro-due process. To those who don’t understand the difference, I have nothing further to say.

  • Paul

    Some prosectors actually prefer men to be on juries during rape cases, because they think men are more black and white about justice, less compassionate. Just another factoid to confuse the issue.

  • LaSargenta

    @Grinebiter: Much obliged to you for picking up the slack. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    @bracyman: Just to answer one particular point of your post, I do actually think that there is, sort of, what you wrote as a “middle ground” about rape. The thing is, that happens BEFORE it is acknowledged to be rape or INSTEAD of calling it rape. There is a huge zone of what people call that “grey area” — was it really rape?

    This movie used an extreme scenario…nothing else would do for the plot. There is no way to deny it was rape and then murder. However, it is my experience that rape is first off not always accompanied by murder. If the victim is still alive after, be the victim male or female, there are doubts voiced by some or by many (depending on the circumstances) that it was really rape…and that is no matter what injuries are or are not present. I don’t want to clog up MaryAnn’s site with each kind of situation that gets argued over as to whether or not it is rape; but, suffice it to say, until the *cough* diagnosis of rape is given, many people feel no need to exhibit outrage. A self-diagnosis of rape is NOT sufficient. It needs to be analysed by a group of onlookers, family, friends, acquaintences, or even strangers.

    So, there’s where the “middle” ground can be found.

  • Drave

    I just got back from seeing this, and I had an almost identical reaction to you, MaryAnn. I was on board for the whole thing, and the more gray it got, the more I enjoyed it. I have seldom seen a movie that was doing so well fall so hard on its face in the last act. The ending baffled me so much that I can’t help but feel there might be a real ending somewhere on the editing room floor, after having been snipped out by a freaked-out producer. Or maybe they just lost the last few pages of the script just before they finished shooting. Maybe the director’s commentary on the DVD will shed some light.

  • Grinebiter

    Interesting “vigilante” case in Europe. A 14-year-old French girl was apparently poisoned by a German doctor, her mother’s lover, on a visit to Germany. The father suspected that he was trying to dope her for rape. At the time the doctor was acquitted for lack of evidence. Years after, however, with better forensics, the body was exhumed and the doctor convicted by a French court of murder in absentia. The Germans refused to extradite. The father, who was getting old and impatient, appears to have kidnapped the doctor. However, he didn’t kill or torture him, but parked him on the pavement outside the French court, all tied up.

  • Tim1974

    I have no interest in seeing this film. I don’t find violence and blood to be the least bit entertaining. I like the idea of retribution, especially since there seems to be many cases where the guilty walk free, but I prefer to see it in a non violent way. I find rape to be appalling as well as violence towards females and males. In addition, I find talk of sexual mutilation to males to be disgusting. Finally, I refuse to view any film that continues to display gratuitous male nudity. For me, I will not be seeing this film in the theatre, DVD, or cable.

  • Lee

    “Remember, liberalism is a mental disorder. Not a philosopy”

    haha… Nice!
    Same people that say alcoholism is a disease. I love south park’s take on alcoholism as a disease. Put the dang bottle down! haha
    Anyway, great review of the movie!

  • Paul

    And that conservatism is an excuse, not the reason.

  • CB

    Same people that say alcoholism is a disease. I love south park’s take on alcoholism as a disease. Put the dang bottle down! haha

    I like Mitch Hedberg’s take.
    “Alcoholism is a disease, but it’s the only disease you can get yelled at for having.

    Damnit, Mitch! You’re an alcoholic!

    Damnit, Mitch! You have Lupus!”

  • Accounting Ninja

    CB, in two days, you have linked Perry Bible Fellowship and just quoted Mitch Hedberg.

    Can I have your internet babies? ;)

  • CB

    If you like, Accounting Ninja, but I’m not paying any Internet Child Support!

  • http://toniokruger.blogspot.com Tonio Kruger

    Alcoholism is a disease, but it’s the only disease you can get yelled at for having.

    Actually, it would probably be accurate to say that, apart from maybe lung cancer, it’s one of the few diseases that modern society actually encourages.

    But, alas, that would not be so funny.

    And right now my inner Greg House is telling my inner Sheldon Cooper to shut up before I give more of the reasons I disagree with Mr. Hedberg…

  • CB

    How is it a matter of accuracy or disagreement when both statements are true?

  • http://toniokruger.blogspot.com Tonio Kruger

    Well, I don’t think too highly about the whole “alcoholism is a disease” theory, much less the whole “alcoholics should be pitied because people shout at them so much” notion.

    However, my reasons for that are personal and I’ve stepped on your joke quite enough as it is. Let’s just say I’ve seen the other side of the issue way too much.

    Sorry.

  • CB

    Well, I don’t think too highly about the whole “alcoholism is a disease” theory, much less the whole “alcoholics should be pitied because people shout at them so much” notion.

    Um, okay, but the point of the joke isn’t that it is as unfair to yell at someone who is an alcoholic as it would be to yell at someone who has Lupus.

    The point of the joke is to take at face value the common notion that “alcoholism is a disease”, and then use that to demonstrate the absurdity of the statement. See, the humor comes from the fact that alcoholism is obviously not “a disease” in the same sense as lupus, and juxtaposing the two in order to point it out.

    However, my reasons for that are personal and I’ve stepped on your joke quite enough as it is. Let’s just say I’ve seen the other side of the issue way too much.

    Don’t worry, I’ve now done much worse to the joke by explaining it in detail. But uh sometimes you have to do that because people’s emotions make them react to certain triggers in a very literal fashion when they aren’t intended to be. ;)

    Kinda like when I related an Emo Phillips joke to my very religious aunt which in part went like this “and so I went into the room and then Jesus walked in behind me. I said ‘Hey close the door! What, were you born in a barn?’”

    “Hey!” she interrupted. “Don’t you be dissin’ my Lord! … … … … Oh, wait… He was born in a barn! Ha ha!”

  • Erin

    What really bothered me about this film is that the very events that caused the narrative weren’t logical.

    Two men invade a home to steal valuables. Seriously, all we see is one of them emptying possessions into a sack, so we can’t assume their motive is anything more than simple theft.

    And yet… neither of them even attempts to conceal their identities. No masks. Nothing. THEN, when the nasty, violent one starts raping and killing, the docile one reacts with a look of horror, as if to say “What the hell are you doing KILLING people? We were just going to rob them!” If he thought it was going to be a simple robbery, why didn’t he think to cover his face throughout the whole thing?

    Secondly, the very fact that it’s the actual murderer who is allowed a lenient sentence in exchange for his statement lacks logic. Clyde Shelton knows who killed his wife. He watched him do it. This information would be part of his statement. Why would a deal even be offered to the murderer, as opposed to the other offender? The police would KNOW he was the killer. Logic would say that they would offer a deal to the other guy, the one who didn’t rape or kill anybody.

    But then again, if that were the case, there wouldn’t be any movie, would there?

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