Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, John Leguizamo, Josh Lucas, Frances Fisher, Bryan Cranston, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, Michael Pena, Michael Pare'
John Romano, Michael Connelly
Making The Case: Creating the "Lincoln Lawyer"
• Michael Connelly: At Home On The Road
• One On One with Matthew McConaughey and Michael Connelly
• Deleted Scenes
In The Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey) is an L.A. based criminal defense attorney who operates out of the back of his chauffeur-driven Lincoln Continental. He spends his days representing clients who are most likely guilty including his latest, a Beverly Hills playboy (Ryan Phillippe) accused of sexual assault and likely guilty of a previous offense for which another man (Michael Pena) has gone to jail.
Surrounded by a stellar supporting cast and seemingly energized by the chance to be in something other than a low rent romantic comedy that merely requires he take off his shirt, Matthew McConaughey is clearly having a blast as Haller despite a script that becomes increasingly absurd based upon a novel by Michael Connelly.
At times, The Lincoln Lawyer plays out like it wants to be the next big thing on television with touches of Barnaby Jones or, perhaps, Matlock. Yet, there's something so refreshingly spirited about the film that even as the absurdity builds up and the film spirals towards a not quite satisfying conclusion you simply can't help but enjoy yourself with it all.
Rather than his usual smarmy playboy, McConaughey plays here a lawyer who lives on the low-rent side of things but does so in a way that doesn't quite make him look like he's incompetent. He lives in a literal shotgun house, and seems to represent a higher than usual number of biker types. Haller has an ex-wife (Marisa Tomei), who's also a prosecutor, and is the lawyer whose client (Pena) went to jail for a crime that it increasingly looks like he didn't commit.
Lincoln Lawyer isn't so much a compelling story, but rather it's compellingly acted by a cast that is far superior than what one might expect in such a film. The ultra-confidence swagger for which McConaughey is so well known works well here, as McConaughey has a knack for showing what a little street sense can add to the legal field and how a bit of ingenuity can mean a heck of a lot more than street smarts.
There's no question that The Lincoln Lawyer won't be for everyone, especially those for whom it's downward spiral into melodrama will feel trivial and unnecessary and its resolution lacking in emotional resonance as the increasingly "complex" plot involves our obviously guilty playboy becoming increasingly guilty of additional offenses.
William H. Macy is a hoot as Haller's ragged private eye, and both Tomei and Phillippe are top notch here. The film's weak closing is brought to live briefly thanks to a turn by Shea Wigham as a hilariously clueless witness for the prosecution, salvaging what could have been a sleep-inducing conclusion to an otherwise satisfying crime thriller.
Most who have read Connelly's intricately detailed novel will have to acknowledge that the novel remains a vastly superior experience to this less detailed and more derivative take on the story. That said, McConaughey fans will rejoice in the actor's meatiest and most satisfying role in years woven together in a movie that entertains even when it doesn't completely satisfy and which contains a strong ensemble cast across the board.
It's puzzling that the folks at Lionsgate did very little in the way of promo for The Lincoln Lawyer, usually a bad sign that a film is expected to flop or be panned by critics. Advanced notice and positive word of mouth always helps with more adult-oriented cinema, which can't rely on special effects or a built-in schlock audience to flood the theaters on opening weekend. Far better than expected, The Lincoln Lawyer brings McConaughey back into the acting big leagues and is hopefully a sign of what we can expect from the actor in the future.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic