This Friday is all about wild things at the multiplex. Some are furry and lovable, and explore the emotions of childhood. Others are law abiding citizens, blowing up Philadelphia and showing off their follow-me-lines for no plotworthy reason. I decided to honor the latter with my Cinematical Seven, because Law Abiding Citizen marks Gerard Butler's big producing debut, and any film that requires he abandon trousers is worthy of celebration.
Law Abiding Citizen centers on Clyde Shelton, who loses his family in a grisly slaying and decides to exact his own justice in true Charles Bronson style. But whereas Bronson just needed to speak softly and carry a big gun, Shelton decides to exact his revenge from behind bars. So, in honor of his crazy-eyed and pantless plotting, I've decided to list seven inmates who could have inspired Clyde Shelton's reign of terror. These lawful and unlawful citizens all manage to hatch impressive plans while locked up in the slammer. Some of them are just sick of prison food and trying to get out, while others have more sinister goals in mind. Regardless of their guilt or innocence, we often find ourselves rooting for them to dodge their stripes, and thwart the system.
Head below the jump for the seven!
1. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs
The list must start with the smooth criminal who could give every hardened criminal on it nightmares. The FBI locked Lecter up, but was unable to throw away the key because only his slippery, brilliant mind could help them when their forensic talent came up short. But no one ever seemed to understand just how dangerous Lecter could be behind bars, and that his friendly assistance was anything but self-serving.
2. Luke Jackson in Cool Hand Luke
Luke's penitentiary plans may not be as epic or brilliant as others on this list, but who among them could turn an egg eating contest into a symbol of 1960s counterculture? Jackson has the spirit beaten out of him, he loses his friends and admirers, and fails every one of his escape attempts. Nevertheless, his steely-eyed defiance lives on until the final frame, and we all know there will be a lot more failures to communicate thanks to his cool influence.
3. Frank Morris in Escape from Alcatraz
You don't taunt a man like Frank Morris by telling him no one escapes from Alcatraz, because he'll find a way. The real life escape starts with a humble pair of nail clippers, and progresses to hollow shoes and welding equipment. While Morris is definitely not the sort of fellow you'd want as a neighbor (and I suspect his fellow escapees are even worse), you root for him to succeed just to see the fastidious Warden's face rubbed in it. (Sexy fact: Like Law Abiding Citizen, Escape From Alcatraz showcases the bare bum of its leading man. It's the only nude scene Clint Eastwood has ever done.)
4. Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo
Of all our inmates, Dantes gets the rawest deal. Falsely charged and imprisoned, he's betrayed by everyone he has ever loved and trusted. He's locked up for thirteen years before a wrong turn of the tunnel introduces him to Abbe Faria, and spends even longer redigging their escape route. But along the way, he's educated by Faria, knowledge which helps him plot his revenge and assume his new identity as the Count of Monte Cristo. It's his Machiavellian plotting and exhaustive education that earns him a place on the list -- any convict can dig a tunnel, after all, but how many manage to learn chemistry while doing so?
5. Daryll Lee Cullum in Copycat
Cullum is a white-trash version of Hannibal Lecter, but just because he's a foul mouthed hick doesn't mean you should turn your back on him. He develops quite an obsession with Dr. Helen Hudson (Sigourney Weaver) and just isn't content to leave her as a fear riddled agoraphobic. He's quite content to remain behind bars as long as she dances to his disgusting tune, and his reach is long enough to ensure that she'll keep dancing to it. Cullum remains the number one reason I fear public bathrooms. Seriously, stay alert when you enter one.
6. Magneto in X2: X-Men United
It seemed so easy. Build Magneto a prison made of plastic with a retractable walkway, stack the monitoring room with metal detectors, and you could sleep easy knowing he wouldn't be fermenting mutant rebellion any time soon. But never underestimate the loyalty of the Brotherhood of Mutants. Not only was he plotting ways to turn Stryker's mind control against humankind, but he found time to come up with a variation of the old file-in-the-birthday-cake trick. Of course, it helps to have a shape-shifting woman on the outside ....
7. Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption
You can't make a list of clever inmates without putting Andy on it, especially if you want to balance out Hannibal Lecter. It's not his escape plan that warrants him a place, it's the quiet and humble way he integrates himself with the Captain of the Guards and Warden Norton. Not only does it help him score a lot of contraband for his cell (including those vital posters of "fantasy girlies"), but access to the prison's finances allows him to set up one hell of a house of cards. Dufresne not only escapes, but brings the Warden to justice, and winds up living the good life in Mexico. Even Frank Morris would be jealous of that.