Analysing Revenge/thriller trailers:’Law Abiding Citizen’….

Posted: July 30, 2010 in Media

Because I intend on making a trailer for a thriller/revenge film (where the genre of revenge is very strong and a big part of the story) I thought that looking at and researching trailers of a similar genre would benefit me and make me realise what kind of things audiences would expect from a trailer of this genre.

Of this I intend to closely analyse 5 thriller/Revenge trailers. The first is the trailer of ‘Law Abiding Citizen’ (movie poster situated above)…and which you can view below:


Quite clearly this film is going to be crime/thriller/action with a big theme of revenge. We can determine the ‘crime’ aspect of the film as there are repeated hints at various crimes throughout the trailer- like the dialogue explaining that someone ‘killed a little girl’ and the montages of clips where we see a man being tortured- telling us the film advertised here is likely to include a lot of violent crimes within its plot and probably upsetting themes. The revenge theme of the film is also very clear to us, as the central protagonist whose wife and child were said to be killed clearly was very unhappy of what kind of justice was carried out, and later admits to murdering the men who he feels did not get the punishments they truly deserved. It is clearly also going to be a thriller as we are left feeling a lot of questions are left unanswered like how the protagonist got his revenge and what really happened to his wife/child etc. The trailer is also quite tense and fast paced (at least towards the end) much like an actual thriller film- we see what started as just a man getting his revenge on a pair of criminals soon turns a lot nastier and there is clearly something else bigger at hand- but, we are left unclear of what is actually happening and for what reason. And lastly of course, we see a lot of action in the trailer- such as explosions, fights and fires breaking out, telling us the film will have a lot of action within it and therefore, lots of violence too.


This aspect is not left very clear…after watching we may have some idea of the themes of the film and a little of the plot but I don’t think the trailer gives that much away. Ok, to start of with we clearly see that the protagonist is happy and in a state of equilibrium, with a wife and child.  The equilibrium is then quickly shattered as he is then sprung upon in his own home by two criminals- their motives for doing this are left unclear to us and we begin to wonder who they really are and who sent them. We then see that whatever they were originally there to do is messed up, as one criminal begs to leave (and do whatever they were ordered to do) and the other is inclined to stay, vividly staring at the protagonist’s daughter who is witnessing the whole thing. Whatever horrible things happen- which is insinuated through the protagonist’s horrified reaction, is left unclear and we are thrust into a flashforward. We now know that the wife and child of the protagonist were killed by the criminals and he survived- though how this happened we aren’t really told. A deal is then made as the case goes to court- and, although the details of this deal are hazy- it is clear to us that one of the criminals is put to death and the other is pretty much let off. The lawyers seem to be fine with this deal, the protagonist clearly is not, distinctly showing that the equilibrium has yet been disturbed.  We then are told that, somehow, the execution of one of the criminals went wrong and he suffered a very painful death. We then see that the other criminal is taken by the protagonist and hear him gloat that he is responsible for killing the first criminal and is now going to kill him. Although it’s left unclear how he does it- we’re left pretty certain that he does kill him, as he is then seen being arrested. At this point the narrative begins to get very complicated- he is a cell, supposedly have gotten his revenge on the two criminals, but it is indicated he wants more than that. He wants revenge on the very justice system that let him down. Now it gets a bit tricky- he appears to kill people although he is stuck in a prison cell…and he wants to be released or he threatens that more bad things will happen. It appears this thing gets way out of hand and people begin to get scared as so many people are being murdered by a man who is securely locked away in a police cell. It’s clear to us though that the protagonist has something very big planned to get his revenge…not just on the people who did it, but the whole corrupt system itself. And this naturally makes us want to watch the film and see what he’s going to do and whether he gets his revenge, and whether a new equilibrium, if any, is reinstated.


Well the film appears quite unique. In my opinion I would expect the film to just deal with the man getting his revenge on the criminals, but it appears to be on a much bigger scale of revenge, which may compel people to watch it. Gerard Butler’s leading role would also get a lot of people in the cinemas to watch it, as he is a very popular actor for his well known roles in film’s like ‘P.S I Love You’ and ‘300’. And Jamie Foxx is also a big USP, having been in very popular films also, such as: ‘Miami Vice’ and ‘The Soloist’ so any who’s seen and liked the films these two very popular actors have been in are likely to want to go and see this film as they feel they are more likely to enjoy it. 

Target Audience…

I think that, judging from the trailer, men would be a bigger target audience than women would. This is mainly down to the fact it is clear that the main characters are male (the father seeking revenge/the male cop trying to stop him etc) and therefore male audiences would have more to relate to than female audiences. They could possibly emphasise with these characters and the problems they face and therefore it would make they feel more connected to the characters and more likely to want to go and watch the film itself. In terms of age I would say this film looks like audiences should be no younger than 15 as the trailer clearly shows that the film itself will contain extreme violence that is unmerciful and similar to torture. Such as the ‘execution’ that went wrong and the main character brandishing a jigsaw with which he plans to kill one of the criminals. THis insinuates the film will be too disturbing or upsetting for younger children and needs a more mature audience.


The music begins as the trailer does- it is a slow piano melody which is calm but sounds a little sorrowful. This leads the audience to feel a little tense- is something bad about to happen to this happy family? It makes us want to watch on as we know something bad is about to happen, but the characters clearly don’t. We want to see what horrible thing will happen to them, how, why and what the outcome will be. The music quickly changes to a much darker themed piece as soon as the father answers the door and he is hit over the head- this catches our attention and makes us feel scared and tense- what is going to happen to him? Why are these characters doing this to him? It gets louder and louder, making the tension rise in the audience further and comes to a halt as we are brought into the ‘present day’. As we are shut off from the details of what happened so is the music- and this makes us want to know more. In the ‘present day’ there is rather tension building music in the background, which is quiet and slow paced to begin with and makes us expect something is going to happen or that vital things are happening in this section which will build up in the trailer. This abruptly changes as the cop reveals he is doing a ‘deal’ with one of the criminals who was in the beginning scene of the trailer. The music sounds again, sorrowful and makes the audience pity the main character as he pleads for true justice to be done. Sound effects are then used as we jump in various shots, getting closer each time to the  main character, creating a kind of effect which goes like this: ‘boom’ long shot. ‘boom’ mid shot. ‘boom’ close up. This emphasises that his witnessing of the cop doing this ‘deal’ will have effect on the plot and how the next series of events play out to us. It also makes us more aware and moved by his tearful and angry reaction to what is happening. This sound effects method then re-occurs as the protagonist walks away, having the same kind of effect as we are left wondering what he is going to do to get the justrice he wants. Tension building and loud piercing music then plays as the protagonist is seen brooding- and we wonder what he is thinking and what will happen next. Fast paced music then plays, building a lot of tension in the audience as we see the protagonist get his revenge, and we are left asking whether he will be caught and what will happen then. As the protagonist is caught and it is made clear that he has not yet gotten his actual revenge the music then takes a very different turn- it is bigger, louder and grander- emphasising that the character wants revenge on the whole corrupted justice system and not just two petty criminals. There are also sharp ‘knife like’ sound effects which cut in whenever a dramatic shot comes in or something bad happens etc to emphasise  the importance of what is happening in that shot and also to crank up the tension in the viewers. This grand music gets louder and louder as we get to the end of the trailer and this gets the audience tense and wondering what the protagonist has planned.


Firstly there is an establishing long shot of a city (I’m guessing somewhere in America) setting the location of the film. This then fades to a mid shot of our protagonist and as we are introduced to him first, most audiences would insinuate he is our main character. Therefore most of the audience’s attention will focused be upon him.There is then a series of shot reverse shots as he speaks to a little girl who we know to be his daughter. This little technique makes a big difference as it helps establish that the two characters have a happy and close relationship as they speak to each other like a close parent and child would do constantly smile at one another. We then track the protagonist to the door- which not only heightens his role as importance- but who’s on the other side of the door must be important to the film too, otherwise why include it in the trailer? There is then a montage of shots- from a clever POV from the criminals -we see the main character hit over the head with a baseball bat- and the fact it’s a POV shot makes us wonder who it is and what’s going on. To an extreme close up of hands being tied behind a back- indicating crime and vulnerability. And then a lot of reaction shots- the criminals, one reacting to the wife and daughter, insinuating he is intending on doing something bad to them, and the other saying ‘they have to go’ indicating that isn’t what they are meant to do. The wife who screams ‘NO’ indicates she is scared and heightens our tension also, as if she makes a scene she is likely to be killed aswell and a little daughter looking on, biting her lip which portrays innocence- she knows something bad is happening but doesn’t react in a way like an adult would as she does not understand what is going on and is too innocent to comprehend it. And of course the reaction shot from the protagonist shows his anger and upset at something which is happening, but which we cannot see- leaving us wanting to know the details of what happened to his family. Another shot reverse shot is then used between two new characters- a cop and what looks like a lawyer- and they let us know that a ‘little girl’ has been killed though we hear no details of what really happened or why. There is then a shot reverse shot between the protagonist and the cop, and reaction shots of the protagonist show he is very upset by this ‘deal’ that is going on and we wonder what he will do. More reaction shots shows the protagonists disgust and rage at what little justice he got, and we begin to predict he will not let this slide. An extreme close up of the protagonist as he tearfully is in deep thought shows us he is pondering over what he should do and the family he has lost. It makes us sympathise witht he character as he is clearly distraught with what has happened. Extreme close ups adds mystery and heightens importance to the objects the character is using- which is mainly the tools of torture, like a syringe and a jigsaw. High angled shots over the two criminals as he gets his justice also shows the immense strength and power the main character has over them both. Shot reverse shots are also used in the cell- when the protagonist is captured- to help gives us a bit more information on the plot itself. The body language portrayed by these frames shows us that although he’s in custody, the protagonist still has all the power and has not got his revenge…yet. Extreme close ups of the two rival characters give us indications on emotions and character types- the cop seems sure he is in control but the protagonist is cool and calm- giving us indications he knows very well what he is doing and we wonder what it could be. There is thena very quick montage of shots- including very useful techniques of the POV shots from ‘dead bodies’ that are found giving us only the reaction to those who find them- making us feel tense and we wonder who has been killed and why. There are also a lot of long shots and extreme long shots to give us a sense that his revenge is on a bigger scale than we originally thought and that he is putting everyone into panic- although we don’t know how he has been doing this yet. And lastly, I will note that I like the very last shot of the trailer, which is the main character, at a mid shot, with his back to us with flames growing around him. It indicates the rage burning within him and the longing revenge for what happened growing inside of him. His back being turned to us could also indicate that because of the injustice he has been victim to, he has since turned his back on the world and everyone in it.


Overall the trailers starts off a quite slow pace- we are introduced to the protagonist and see he has a happy life- with a wife (though off screen we do hear her) and a daughter. This builds tension and helps introduce the audience to characters, locations and contexts at hand. This pace then quickens to a quite fast one as the problem/threat occurs (which is the two criminals entering his home and doing bad things which are left quite untold) and this fast pace makes us scared and tense- we wonder what will happen to the characters and what the after effects of this incident will be. In what seems to be a flashforward, the pace is then slowed down a bit as we are given vital information which will help us understand more about the film’s plot or what we could expect from it. It also heightens our tension as we hear justice isn’t completely being done and we wonder what the protagonist will do to get his vengeance. As we see the protagonist get his revenge on the two criminals in various montages the pace agin quickens, heightening shock in the audiences at his actions and making us wonder whether he will actually kill them and if he gets away with this. There is quite a slow pace, if only for a short period, where a vital piece of conversation is portrayed to us- where the protagonist makes it clear his revenge does not stop at the two criminals. It is on a much larger scale than that. And the slow pace makes sure we don’t miss this information and that the audience’s attention is focused upon it. From this the pace then begins to build- it gets faster a little more and a little more as time goes on. The music helps build the pace up and so does the length of time the shots in the montages last. It gets faster as we hear more and more hints at the protagonist, his plan for vengeance and who he really is. This heightens our tension and leaves the audience wanting to know more, and also wanting more importantly, to know how it all ends. As the music dies down and the trailer is coming to an end the pace is once again, slow and brooding. It goes quiet and has a very sinister tone- leaving us cut off from the story and left desperate to know how it all ends.


Overall I think that this was one of the most important aspects of the trailer. It gave us a lot of information on the film, but not too much… just enough to catch our interest. For example, at the start we hear an exchange of dialogue between the protagonist and his wife:


Protagonist: ‘Yeah?’

Wife: ‘Can you get that?’ *referring to sound of doorbell*

And also his affectionate reply to his daughter (to which I can actually state as I can’t hear it properly) quickly help establish that our protagonist has a wife and daughter and is clearly in a very happy relationship. As the equilibrium is disturbed this is backed up by what sounds like the screams of a young child (possibly his daughter) and his wife yelling ‘NO!’ in a  horrified state. THis tells the audience that whatever’s happening, the wife and daughter of the protagonist are both witnessing it. This leads us to be tense and shocked- what will happen to them now they have witnessed this?  Also one of the criminals is heard saying: ‘We’ve got to get out of here, what are you doing? Come on!’ in a rushed and panicked tone. This portrays a sense of chaos- what they were supposed to do have gone wrong somehow, and we wonder how it has gone wrong and what the outcome will be. When we then go to the present day, we hear that someone ‘killed a little girl’ and we instantly link this to previous scenes in the trailer and it tells us that the protagonist’s daughter has been murdered, though no details are given.  The cop then speaks about making a ‘deal’ and says that ‘some justice is better than no justice at all’ which portrays to us that something dodgy is going on and proper justice is not being given considering what happened. As we hear the protagonist being told some snippets of this ‘deal’ we hear his horrified reaction, saying: ‘What?! But the jury is gonna believe me!!’ this gives us a sense that his not atall happy at this type of ‘justice’ and we expect to see some kind of reaction from him later on. This links to later when see the execution of one of the criminals go very wrong we hear a news reporter say that ‘ what was supposed to be a painless execution has turned into something out of a horror film’ and immediately then we know something went terribly wrong and begin to think that somehow, though we don’t know how, the protagonist was behind this. We then hear the protagonist boast that he ‘killed your friend Aimes’ as he has the other criminal in his hands. This makes him seem very ruthless and determined to get his vengeance at any cost. It also sounds as though he is enjoying getting his revenge on them too, although he has done horrific things to them- signalling a perhaps change in character because of what happened. this is also backed up when he says that the cop ‘might wanna cancel your 12.30 lunch with judge Roberts’ and this indicates something bad will happen and that he is a very powerful and clever character (he is advising them on what to do although he knows exactly what is going to happen because he is behind it). His character is also seen as very sinister at determined at all costs to get what he wants when he has a conversation with the cop…

Protagonist: ‘Release me.’

Cop: ‘Or what?’

Protagonist: ‘Or I kill everyone.’

There is also yet more dialogue to make this character out to be unstoppable and ruthless: ‘he’s in jail because he wants to be in jail’…’if (he) wants you dead, you’re dead’…’armed cop on every corner’…’We have him locked up and he’s still killing people?!’ undoubtedly this tells us that not only will the film be extremely violent, but that the protagonist is not stopping his rampage until he gets the justice he deserved in the first place. It makes us eager to know whether or not, after all this, he will get it.  The fact the protagonist says ‘I’m gonna bring the whole system down on your head’ and ‘It’s gonna be biblical’ it makes us very eager to watch the rest of the film as it sounds as though whatever he is up to is on a massive scale and will change our opinion and outlook on the world. It sounds as though he has a lot more to get revenge on than just two petty criminals, which interests us and makes us want to watch the film to see exactly what it is. I also would like to add that I like the ending piece of dialogue:

Cop: ‘You will end this!’

Protagonist: ‘I’m just getting warmed up.’

It leaves us knowing the film will be action packed and also leaves us knowing the protagonist is very defiant and he will let nothing get in the way of him getting his vengeance. So ultimately, we want to know whether he’ll succeed or not.

Voice Over…

I’m pretty sure there isn’t one. Which is good in my opinion as most of the time they take away the feeling a trailer is supposed to evoke in it’s audience.

Special Effects…

Well clearly, there’s quite a few of them. Such as the ‘tampered with’ execution which is clearly there for a kind of ‘shock’ factor in the audience and to let them know the film itself (or at least in this scene) will not be very pleasant and prepares them for violence and upsetting scenes. There are also many explosions- converting the fact that there is  sense of chaos and panic as the protagonist gets his revenge- this tells us there may be a lot of murders within the film and it could be upsetting or scary for younger audiences. There are also fires, car chases and helicopter chases also which all convey this feeling of panic and global distress- that the protagonist is powerful as he is managing to put so many people in a state of turmoil although he is sitting, locked away, in a police cell. This also makes us wonder how he is doing these things when he appears to be imprisoned and the only way we’re going to know how he does it is by watching the film itself.

Credits and Intertitles…

I don’t think the trailer relies on titles as such to sell the film to us, but I think they have a good effect in portraying some of the aspects of the film to us, such as ‘A man who loses everything…Is capable of anything’ it not only portrays that the protagonist has lost his whole life, his whole reason for living (his wife and daughter) but that he also, now, has absolutely nothing to lose as he has lost it all already. Therefore, to get the justice he wants, there is nowhere where he will draw the line and stop himself- like the titles say: He’s capable of doing absolutely anything to get his revenge. ‘This October’ – this teases the audience by not giving an exact date, but only a month to when the film will be released. It’s also a quite a different technique to place it near to the middle as usually this is left until the very end, which catches our attention more I suppose. ‘Gerard Butler’ and ‘Jamie Foxx’ – the two big USPs of the film clearly had to be mentioned if they were not already recognized, as these popular names will get audience’s interest and enlarge the likelihood of them going to see the film itself. And finally the name of the film: ‘Law Abiding Citizen’ near the end, but not at the very end, as there is still a little more film to be featured to us, which I think is an interesting thing to do as trailer so usually leave the name of the film at the end and then that’s it. Finished. But by leaving audiences more than that it gives them more than just the name of the film to go on, which I think is a more clever technique.


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