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Also opening: 'Law Abiding Citizen,' 'The Boys Are Back,' 'The Stepfather'

'Law Abiding Citizen'

Five years ago, the gritty thriller Collateral opened as just another Tom Cruise vehicle and became Jamie Foxx's breakthrough as a serious actor. Now the Gucci shoe's on the other foot with Law Abiding Citizen (R), in which Foxx gets top billing yet may be overshadowed by his co-star.

A ferocious performance in 300 didn't make Gerard Butler a household name, and flops like The Ugly Truth, Nim's Island and Gamer didn't help at all. But the preview trailer for Law Abiding Citizen gets moviegoers buzzing with anticipation. Nobody's predicting an Oscar nomination like Foxx received for Collateral but Butler may have a role that folks will remember.

Butler plays Clyde Shelton, a victim of a home invasion that leaves his wife and daughter murdered. One culprit gets the death penalty while the other gets a plea bargain from district attorney Nick Rice (Foxx), setting him free after a few years. Clyde gets some vigilante payback and goes to prison but that's when the fun begins.

Somehow from behind bars, Clyde is arranging the deaths of anyone involved in the plea bargain that ruined his life. Nick and his family are next on the list. Like Charles Bronson's classic Death Wish, Law Abiding Citizen appeals to our vigilante instincts, blurring the distinction between right and wrong.

Law Abiding Citizen wasn't screened in time for Weekend. A review can be found at and on Friday's Etc page (Page 2B).

'The Boys Are Back'

One reason why Gerard Butler isn't better known may be that he's easily confused with Clive Owen. They're both rugged blokes from the British Isles, sexy in ruddy sorts of ways and equally handy with weapons or women. Both actors releasing movies on the same day may end the confusion.

The Boys Are Back (PG-13) sounds nothing like Law Abiding Citizen. Owen plays Joe Warr, a sportswriter stunned by his wife's sudden death, leaving him unprepared for single parenthood. Joe takes an unusual approach to raising children, allowing his sons to do pretty much whatever they please. That kind of hands-off attitude won't last long.

The Boys Are Back is among the first movies being shown at the new CineBistro, 1609 W Swann Ave. in Tampa's Hyde Park district. The movie is directed by Scott Hicks, an Academy Award nominee for directing Shine (1996), which looks more like a one-hit wonder each passing year.

'The Stepfather'

If you only know Terry O'Quinn from his role as John Locke on TV's Lost, check his breakout performance in 1987's The Stepfather. That was a nasty piece of business about a man marrying women then killing them — and their children, when possible — if they don't adhere to his idea of the perfect housewife.

Good, lurid trash, so of course it has been remade for a new generation. The new Stepfather (PG-13) stars Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck) as the modern Bluebeard but this version is tailored for the youth market with Penn Badgley (Gossip Girl) and Amber Heard (Pineapple Express) saving the day. Screen Gems declined to provide advance screenings to critics.

Also opening: 'Law Abiding Citizen,' 'The Boys Are Back,' 'The Stepfather' 10/14/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 4:30am]
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