* CompleteMonster: Clarence Darby stands in stark contrast to the [[AntiVillain relatively sympathetic]] Clyde Shelton. Darby starts Clyde's StartOfDarkness when he and his accomplice, Rupert Ames, rob his home. Darby [[RapeIsASpecialKindOfEvil rapes]] and kills Clyde's wife before [[WouldHurtAChild murdering their daughter]], all while Ames [[EvenEvilHasStandards yells at him to stop]]. In court, Darby lies and says Ames did it, resulting in Ames being sentenced to death while Darby get a slap on the wrist. When Clyde sabotages Ames's execution so he dies a slow and painful death and frames Darby for it, Darby chuckles when he hears about Ames's painful death on the news, and shoots at the police when they try to arrest him. He's about to murder an officer [[ForTheEvulz for no reason]] before it turns out to be Clyde in disguise, who tortures and kills Darby.
* DarknessInducedAudienceApathy: This feeling hits home for viewers who become increasingly disillusioned with Clyde's actions halfway through the film. Clyde starts off as sympathetic, but he eventually becomes worse than the madman (Darby) who sparked off his rage in the first place. As for the attorneys and lawyers on the other side, they're [[StrawmanPolitical immoral strawmen made to look as corrupt as possible]], except for Sarah, [[spoiler: who dies thanks to Clyde]]. When one realizes Clyde's hypocrisy reaches the level of [[Franchise/{{Saw}} Jigsaw]] it's impossible to root for anybody. See BlackAndGrayMorality.
** Also, Nick's response to his partner asking about Clyde's civil rights? "''Fuck'' his civil rights." It's supposed to come off as awesome, but that's a ''really'' ''bad'' ideology.
*** Though it could be argued that the utterance was more a rhetorical one born out of frustration than an actual violation. The police could've entered the property under exigent circumstances given that Clyde was a clear and immediate threat to the public and one of his properties was ''right across the street'' from the prison he was being held in. Had Clyde tried to suppress the evidence found, Nick could've argued inevitable discovery. Nick had received a tip that identified the property he broke into belonged to Clyde. Nick and the police were looking for Clyde's accomplice, guns, explosives and other materials related to his crimes; that would've granted them a search warrant; [[spoiler: especially since Clyde had also murdered a Judge, a District Attorney and multiple employees, a defense attorney, two inmates, a criminal and multiple law enforcement officers with no end in sight]].
*** Also, Clyde makes it clear, more than once, that it wasn't about being lenient and respecting a suspect's civil rights that started this mess, it was that Nick didn't care or even ''tried''. Clyde said that even if they went to trial against Darby and Ames and lost, they both could've walked out of the courtroom with their heads held high. Clyde's ultimate aim was to make Nick actually ''care'' about the people he's supposed to represent in court and fight for them, not make incredibly lenient deals with criminals who commit horrific crimes to maintain his conviction rate.
* DesignatedHero: Nick. He lets the wrong person off the hook with a plea bargain, inadvertently making a murderer of the man whose family was killed by said person, [[KarmaHoudini and suffers no blowback by movie's end]].
* DracoInLeatherPants: There are quite a few people who present Clyde as a hero fighting a corrupt system, ignoring that many of the people who die at Clyde's hands were simply employees doing their jobs and not actively trying to wrong him. That and he killed his cellmate simply to advance his plot. Clyde might be sympathetic, but the crimes he committed are still wrong.
* FauxSymbolism: The [[spoiler: fires that surround Clyde the last moment we see him in the film before his death.]]
** [[spoiler:When Sarah and the others are blown up outside the prison]], Clyde is shown in priest-like black clothes and white undershirt, fingering his daughter's bracelet which resembles rosary beads.
* HilariousInHindsight: At one point Bray says "spies are a dime a dozen", which was included in the trailer. This unintentionally mirrored a line from ''SupplementalMaterial/TeamFortress2'''s trailer "Meet The Spy", which has the Scout saying "[Spies are] dime-a-dozen back-stabbing scumbags!" The payoff? Well, see ''Law Abiding Engineer''.
* JerkassWoobie: Clyde, he kills a lot of people, but he had his wife and daughter murdered and the main perpetrator got off with a slap on the wrist.
** Ames could also count. Yeah, he was Darby's accomplice, but he only wanted to rob the place, he didn't want to kill anyone. Darby sold him up the river when he tried to stop him. Just before his execution, he says that he regrets ever having been there that night. The fact he died a horrible death is pretty sad.
* MagnificentBastard: Clyde Shelton. You may not approve of the idea that guides him, but you have to admit and admire his style and execution.
* MemeticMutation: [[VideoGame/TeamFortress2 The "Law Abiding Engineer" machinima...]] [[NightmareFuel Which works a little]] ''[[NightmareFuel too]]'' [[NightmareFuel well.]] [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjGrHBpfqCo&feature=related See here]] (unless you happen to be from the wrong country, in which case you can't).
* MoralEventHorizon: Clarence Darby crosses this in the the '''first two minutes''' of the movie.
** Initially, we can sympathize with Clyde Shelton's desire to kill [[AssholeVictim Clarence Darby]] as vengeance for killing his wife and kids. But then there's how he goes about it: paralyzing his body, taking him to his lab and chopping of his limbs with a chainsaw, making a video of this, and sending the video to Nick Rice.
*** He definitely crosses it when he murders his cellmate for no other reason then to advance ThePlan. Although there are many different views, this is the most widely cited.
*** And for those who think that all of Clyde's victims were {{Asshole Victim}}s in some way or form, the final straw is when [[spoiler: Sarah becomes one]].
* RootingForTheEmpire: {{Deconstructed}}. At the beginning one is hardfelt to not be rooting for Shelton's RoaringRampageOfRevenge against the people that wronged him and the system that deliberately let his killer go just to keep up appearances. But it slowly changes when it becomes clear of how vast Shelton believes the people involved are and is ready to kill a lot of innocent people just to get his revenge.
* TheyWastedAPerfectlyGoodPlot: For most of the movie, we are led to believe that Clyde is getting away with his crimes because he has someone helping him on the inside. [[spoiler: When we find out that he has no help, and that he has a tunnel system that takes him from his solitary confinement cell to wherever he wants to go to carry out his crimes and back again before anyone notices, many thought him having a partner was better and made more sense, and this twist broke many a suspension of disbelief. If ANYONE checked up on him while he was out committing his crimes, he would have been exposed, plus it means he carried out highly elaborate and sophisticated murders, many of which required precision timing ''and'' a level of improvisation, entirely by himself, when again a partner would have been more plausible.]]
* UnfortunateImplications: The line "Fuck his civil rights" can ''really'' rub people the wrong way and give them the wrong impression, as it more or less implies the law is pretty corrupt and will throw ordinary people to the wolves if need be, as [[http://www.flickfilosopher.com/2009/10/law-abiding-citizen-review.html one review]] points out:
--> "''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.''"
* UnintentionallySympathetic: Ames. Sure, he's a robber, but he still tries to save Shelton's family because EvenEvilHasStandards. And yet he gets DisproportionateRetribution from both the system '''''and''''' Shelton (UngratefulBastard much?), and the movie tries to paint him as equally an AssholeVictim as [[TheSociopath Darby]].
** Darby's lawyer as well. He's even more of a DesignatedVillain than Ames (who's actually a criminal), yet the movie tries to paint him as an AmoralAttorney who deserves to be BuriedAlive.
** Anes shows clear remorse for his crimes at his execution. Also, Nick lampshades that the lawyer had a wife. Clyde [[spoiler: killed them]] because they were involved in Darby escaping justice.
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