The Lincoln Lawyer

25 Apr

Title: The Lincoln Lawyer
Year:
2011
Director:
Brad Furman
Writer: John Romano, based on the novel by Michael Connelly
Starring:
Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Peña, Bob Gunton, Bryan Cranston, William H. Macy
MPAA Rating:
R, some violence, sexual content and language
Runtime:
118 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
7.5
Rotten Tomatoes:
83%

My dad gave me The Lincoln Lawyer to read in early 2007 if I remember correctly. He was a fan of Michael Connelly’s novels and even though he knew I wasn’t a particular fan of best-selling crime genre thought I might like this one. And he was right, the novel went by really fast and I thought it was quite entertaining, and after that I got into some of his other books and found that they, especially those with Connelly’s mainstay Harry Bosch as a protagonist, were pretty okay as well.

So four years later after I read the novel, and six after it was originally published, we get the film adaptation of The Lincoln Lawyer. And I was originally worried because Matthew McConaughey had landed the lead role of Mickey Haller, and even though I thought Mr. McConaughey was a pretty slick guy who had been dependable on rom-coms like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days I didn’t necessarily consider him a good actor.

But then I saw the film, and found out that this was a role that needed Mr. McConaughey to turn up the charm quite a bit, which is something he’s really good at, so he was actually pretty superb in the role, which is probably the best performance he’s given in his career. And that’s not to say that this is a film that goes by just on the charm of its star, because the people that are lined up to star alongside Mr. McConaughey are all seriously great actors, from Marisa Tomei to Bryan Cranston to William H. Macy, the supporting cast here is stacked up with some really awesome names that elevate this one considerably.

And that’s really what The Lincoln Lawyer has going for it that makes it so damn entertaining, a charming star to carry it along and a rock solid cast of supporting players. Because, other than that, it’s not like this one deviates all that much from the courtroom-thiller formula we are all so familiar with by now, but because the cast is so good it doesn’t feel formulaic at all, but instead behaves much like the novels it’s based on did when I read it, it goes by really fast and is real good entertainment from beginning to end.

This is what I talk about when I say a Hollywood commercial film is good, a true surprise that while coming with a studio budget and a string of recognizable faces still managed to be stylish, entertaining and quite clever as well, which is something that in today’s mainstream film world is easier said than done.

I mean, as I said, this is still pretty formulaic, your typical who-did-it courtroom drama that plays out at least once a night in a network TV show. The thing is that this one abandons all the cheap gimmicks and is just a really solid film that doesn’t assume it’s great, but rather approaches its audience much like the sort of novel its source material was, one that you’ll buy at the airport and devour on the plane, the sort of entertainment that doesn’t have ambitions of grandeur, that won’t have you overthinking it, but rather one that you’ll have no trouble keeping up with, I really wouldn’t mind if this became a franchise and we got to hear Mr. McConaughey’s southern drawl as Mickey Haller once every couple of years.

Because Mickey Haller is actually the sort of role Mr. McConaughey should have been playing since he started out, not the charming muscular dude some blonde will fall over in a yearly romantic comedy, but instead a stylish and smooth-talking  wise guy that actually has something interesting to do, think of him here as a cheaper-but-still-effective version of George Clooney. Mickey Haller is a criminal defense attorney who works out of a Lincoln Continental armed with a loyal chauffeur and that usually doesn’t mind getting innocent guys to go to jail so long as a paying customer can walk off innocent.

Yet we see him get a new case from Louis Roulet, a young rich playboy played by Ryan Phillippe who’s been accused of murdering a call-girl, which isn’t as easy as the ones he usually gets, and that starts to get messy real fast, with Mickey and the people he loves getting involved themselves. And while the many plot twists this one throws at you aren’t entirely unexpected nor unpredictable, they make do for fun viewing, not to mention the characters here are all pretty cool, and Los Angeles is portrayed quite nicely by cinematographer Lukas Ettlin, who also shot L.A. in this year’s inferior Battle: Los Angeles, and director Brad Furman who makes his sophomore directorial effort with this one after 2007’s The Take.

I really recommend watching this one, I mean, we see films with smart wise-ass guys quite a bit, and a few of those also include courtroom scenes, but the vast majority of those only focus on the main guy, and don’t pay any mind to the people around him.

And I really can’t stress enough how important that is here, I mean, Mr. McConaughey does indeed give probably the best performance of his career here, one that keeps his macho looks and southern charm alive but that injects him this new-found vulnerability which hopefully is only the beginning of a new stage of his career.

But the people he’s surrounded with here are awesome, Josh Lucas as his opposing attorney, the great Bryan Cranston as a cop, the incomparable William H. Macy as his P.I. of choice. And then there’s Marisa Tomei, who I’ve a had huge crush on since I can remember, and who’s incredibly beautiful and who possess probably the best smile in the world. She plays Mickey’s ex-wife who’s still his friend, and she’s as awesome as ever, and you’ll probably go to jail if you think any different.

Go watch this one if you can, I honestly doubt you’ll be disappointed. I enjoyed it from beginning to end, it was far from amazing, but it was appropriately acted and for all its predictable moves and unnecessary plot lines it never once felt dull. This is what every courtroom thriller made for popular consumption should aspire to be, a film that’s doesn’t really aim for greatness but that doesn’t assume you’re dumb either, and that has charm and talent to spare, just a job well done by everyone involved.

Grade: B+

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One Response to “The Lincoln Lawyer”

  1. CMrok93 April 30, 2011 at 5:06 am #

    While it sticks to the courtroom thriller formula, this is an entertaining ride thanks to a terrific screenplay and Matthew McConaughey’s magnetic lead performance. It’s the perfect time killer, because you won’t ever feel bored. Good review, check out mine when you can!

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