REVIEW: The Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer
Directed by: Brad Furman
Written by: John Romano (screenplay), Michael Connelly (book)
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, and William H. Macy

Matthew McConaughey is one of the most knocked around actors working in the modern Hollywood studio system.  He’s so derided by critics that people forget that he can actually act.  So here he is in The Lincoln Lawyer, putting on a shirt and a serious face and earning back some street cred.

Directed by Brad Furman with a keen sense of what thrills and what doesn’t, The Lincoln Lawyer is a court procedural that stresses politics outside the courtroom as much as in them.  It’s a movie with a story to tell (one originated by Michael Connelly), one that isn’t watered down to the basics or drowned out by explosions.

McConaughey plays Mick Haller, a big-time defense lawyer who operates out of his classic Lincoln.  Haller recalls George Clooney’s character in Up in the Air with his constant motion in the car, through metal detectors, and out of buildings.

Haller has been hired by Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a wealthy real-estate agent convicted of  assaulting a prostitute.  The story uses other cases that Mick is taking around this one, and then has them all kind of bleed into each other as the movie races toward the finish.

Furman has a zest for motion, hardly ever stopping for a money shot or lingering too long in one setting.  He lets the movie breath with several outdoor scenes, which break up the courtroom proceedings quite nicely.  The flashbacks are shot in heightened color, which is typical but still suits him nicely.

In court procedurals, the eccentric characters are usually tasked with picking up the slack of the mundane plot.  Even the word “procedural” suggests that the audience is simply being taken through the paces yet again.  With The Lincoln Lawyer, it’s the complete opposite.  With the exception of William H. Macy’s hippie-looking investigator, the characters are mundane; they all do exactly what they’re supposed to.  Hicks may be a greasy defense lawyer, but he has a daughter he loves and gets along peacefully with his ex-wife (Marisa Tomei).

The only weak link in the casting is Ryan Phillippe.  Phillippe is a terrific actor, but this role should’ve been given to someone older and more convincing.  It’s easy to see that in casting him they were trying to put the audience off, but it happens for the wrong reasons.

Though The Lincoln Lawyer is relatively familiar, it was clearly a labor of love.  Furman and the cast put a lot of effort into trying to make it entertaining, and they succeeded.  McConaughey may be comfortable taking off his shirt and making rom-coms, but he also seems to hold the center of legal dramas quite well.

Grade: B-

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