Beware of falling into the trap of thinking that because Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler often play heart-wrenchingly sweet characters (think Ray and P.S I Love You), you’re bound to get a moving, meaningful movie. The extremely flimsy premise of Citizen paints Clyde (Butler) as a family man gone wrong, losing his wife and daughter in a brutal double-murder minutes into the movie. Nick (Foxx) is the lawyer assigned to send the murderers to jail. He cuts a deal and, well, pisses Clyde off in a big way. Clyde goes crazy and starts killing people left, right and center.
If blood and gore makes you queasy, don’t bother trying to sit through this one. It isn’t giving anything away to say that the audience is literally treated to a graphic dismemberment, complete with a second reappearance of the same bloody scene later on in the film. While there is ostensibly a plot, Citizen seems more like an excuse to see Butler and Foxx be bad-asses than anything else.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Butler randomly strips to his birthday suit for no apparent reason. If the purpose of showing off his butt is to distract from the nonsense plot, it works –- momentarily. Then the absurdity kicks back in and you almost forget about the Butler butt.
To be fair, for what it is, Citizen is well put together. An exquisite scene early on ties together an execution and a cello recital beautifully, and the effects, though over-the-top, are kind of cool to just stare at. For what it lacks in character development, it makes up for in sheer gumption. After all, peddling Butler as an intellectual (he’s so smart, he can kill people by himself even from his jail cell!) is a daring move. Foxx mostly falls flat as a work-obsessed father who ignores his family for his job.
Leslie Bibb and Colm Meaney both play bit parts in Citizen. There isn’t really anything to say about them, other than they take up space. This movie is really just about the rapport between Nick and Clyde, and not much else — except a lot of killing.
The movie almost comes together in the end. However, I was left with more questions than answers. It’s easy to tell halfway through the movie what is going to happen: what never gets explained is how it comes to fruition. Sketchy, half-formed characters are mentioned once or twice, and then never brought up again. Motives aren’t really made clear. Sure, it’s a movie so it will be contrived; however, it doesn’t have to be so blatantly obvious that a character was only written into the script to further the vague plot.
Citizen is not a bad film. If there’s nothing else going on at night, it’s a fine movie to spend some money on. But with all of the alternatives out there right now, Citizen is only the perfect film for those wishing to sit through two hours of violence and not much else.
Bottom line: As pointed out multiple times in Law Abiding Citizen, you can’t fight fate. Unfortunately, this movie can’t fight its fate of being mediocre and forgettable.