The Lincoln Lawyer

Director: Brad Furman

Notable Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, Marissa Tomei, John Leguizamo, Michael Peña

Rating: R

Review: Ah yes, the age-old lawyer stereotype: defending the guilty just for a buck.  To most people, lawyers are nothing but sleaze balls with greased back her and a who gives a sh*t attitude.  But could a movie like The Lincoln Lawyer sway our beliefs, and prove to us these are just decent people who just happen to be good at what they do, and just do it to make a living?  Despite what you still wish to believe, The Lincoln Lawyer was a more than presentable dramatic thriller that really showcased McConaughey in a role that didn’t have him stuck in some crappy romantic comedy as the dashingly handsome love interest.  I’m happy to say this wasn’t as much of a chore as I thought it was going to be, and Michael Connelly should certainly be proud of the way his novel was portrayed on the big screen, especially by a relative unknown in director Brad Furman.  Also, kudos to McConaughey for keeping his shirt on for an unprecedented amount of time on screen.  Didn’t know he had it in him…

Mick Haller (McConaughey) is a hot-shot defense attorney that plays by his own rules. Working mainly out of his car (a Lincoln!) because of the volume of locations he has to be, he’s well-known for getting the job done: any way possible.  He’s not a dirty lawyer, but teamed up with his investigator Frank Levin (Macy), the duo can unearth even your dirtiest of secrets.  So one day, co-worker Val Valenzuela (Leguizamo) says he has a high-profile case that he recommended Mick for, and would also be a sweet payday for Haller. The case?  A young realtor named Louis Roulet (Phillippe) has been charged with breaking into a prostitute’s apartment, and brutally attacking her.  Roulet swears his innocence, but as Haller is investigating the case, more and more information surfaces that makes his argument less and less of a slam dunk.  Haller, already battling morality issues within himself, realizes he’s in too far over his head, and now is worried for the safety of his ex-wife Maggie (Tomei) and their daughter.  Just wanting to get the Roulet case behind him, Haller pulls out all the stops while trying to do what he thinks is right within his power.

“You want me to keep my shirt….on?  I don’t get it…” 

I’m going to say McConaughey needed this.  Besides capturing the hearts of numerous daydreaming housewives, the dude has done nothing of substance for about the last decade.   What’s his best role been, Tug Speedman’s agent Rick Peck (The Pecker) in Tropic Thunder?  Even in the depressing story We Are Marshall, in which McConaughey had to play a new football coach who must bring a team back from the brink after extreme tragedy, critics pointed at Matt’s performance as the worst part of the film. Besides that, Sahara?  Tiptoes? Surfer, Dude?  I won’t even jump into his romantic comedy roles, because I’m sure lovers of the genre think he’s a golden god.  I’ll never win that argument.  But yeah, McConaughey NEEDED this.  Everything about him screamed this role thankfully though. That cool, calm, and collected California attitude was exactly the kind of confident personality Haller needed to show.  And those slick, charming, good looks to accompany the personality that made him such a valuable asset to the romantic comedy genre? Exactly what you would picture the big hot-shot attorney to look like; just one of those guys who can get away with anything.  The charisma; the style, the attitude; just on looks alone you can truly believe Haller could get Charlie Manson himself out of anything.  There are some actors that just seem born to play a role, and after years of trying to be in impact actor yet again, McConaughey seems to have found the perfect role in Mick Haller.  Never thought I’d see the day where I’d actually be praising this pretty boy surfer dude for his acting abilities…

With that said, The Lincoln Lawyer falls into a bit of a pattern when it came to plot.  It was the typical “Here’s a guy doing a job no one approves on, but then grows a conscious and questions everything.”  It becomes predictable at parts, as you can pinpoint the path our characters are headed down.  There is no hiding from the obvious.  But Furman translates this into strength, as he portrays such instances in a flowing manner, instead of trying to show them as grand revelations.  The film goes forth as cohesive storytelling, instead of trying to hide plot points as surprises that would have failed miserably.  It sounds like this should be a path taken by most directors, but so many times we see films think they are smarter than they really are (The Adjustment Bureau for example), and almost make you feel like your intelligence is being questioned.  The Lincoln Lawyer does something smart: analyzes a weakness and instead of trying to ignore it, takes that weakness and turns it into an advantage.  If other films weren’t so full of themselves, they could achieve the same success.

Not knowing what to expect, The Lincoln Lawyer satisfied all exceptions…whatever they were.  McConaughey was the big success story to come out of this novel turned film, but having a supporting cast rounded out by Tomei, Macy, Leguizamo, Lucas, Phillippe, and Peña sure didn’t hurt anything.  Phillippe took to the spoiled brat with a hidden past surprisingly well, and Macy delivered another un-surprisingly strong secondary performance.  Brad Furman blended the drama and suspense nicely, showing promise in his budding directorial career.  More importantly though, he was able to extract a considerably out of character and deep performance from McConaughey himself, something not many directors have been able to do.  This courtroom drama is an approvable watch for all fans, and a surprise early success in this year of films.

Final Rating: 7.5 pissed off shirt wearing McConaugheys out of 10

“Wait, you want me to keep my shirt on?  No no, I totally get it…”


About Matt Donato

I love all things film. I'll watch any genre, any actor, at any time. This whole film critic thing is a passionate hobby for now which I'm balancing with working in the business world, but hey, someday, who knows?
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