Review: The Lincoln Lawyer


Directed by: Brad Furman
Written by:Screenplay by John Romano based on the novel by Michael Connelly
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Pena, Bob Gunton, Frances Fisher, Bryan Cranston
Released: March 31, 2011
Grade: B+

“Looking forward to a Matthew McConaughey movie tonight. Never thought I’d ever say that.”  That was a tweet I posted a few hours prior to the preview screening of The Lincoln Lawyer.

I couldn’t elaborate on Twitter given the 140 character limitations but my reasons were twofold.  Firstly, this was not a romantic comedy.  I’m sure that was a relief to Mr McConaughey as it was to me.  Let’s just say you won’t find films like Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past, Fool’s Fold and Failure To Launch in my personal DVD collection.  Secondly, this film boasts a killer cast.  When I saw the list of names on the poster, it had my attention.

Having now seen the film, I can say that it’s worth the price of admission.  The Lincoln Lawyer is a smooth thriller that offers decent twists and intriguing subplots.  Based on the novel by Michael Connelly, it’s reminiscent of the John Grisham adaptations we saw throughout the 1990s.  The pieces fit together a little too neatly in these types of films but they’re still fun to watch.  They always have you cheering for the reluctant hero, hoping they’ll expose the truth and giving the bad guys what they deserve.

Our protagonist in this story is a slick defence lawyer by the name of Mick Haller (McConaughey).  He doesn’t always do things by the book but he gets results.  If you find yourself up on a serious charge, this is the guy you want representing you.  He exudes confidence and can sweet-talk almost anyone.

Haller finds himself with a new client.  32-year-old Louis Roulet (Phillippe) has been charged with rape and assault.  Roulet is from a wealthy family and claims that it’s a set up.  He tells Haller that the woman is a vindictive prostitute who looking to pursue him through the civil courts and land a big cash settlement.

Haller’s first thought isn’t one of guilt or innocence.  He’s more concerned about how much he’ll get paid.  It’s a dream job in the sense that his client is rich and he can therefore charge whatever he wants.  As the case progresses however, his focus will change.  There’s something not quite right about the facts presented and so he uses the help of a good friend (Macy) to investigate.

The film moves along at a brisk pace and there aren’t many lulls during its two hour duration.  You could make a valid argument that the film should have been a little longer.  With so many characters, there isn’t enough time to explore their background and their relevance to the story.  A good example is the relationship shared between Haller and his ex-wife (Tomei).

That said, the quality of the cast does a lot to overcome these limitations.  Matthew McConaughey does a nice job creating a flawed yet likeable hero. Marisa Tomei and Ryan Phillippe are great too.  Of the supporting players, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, Michael Pena and Bryan Cranston make an impact in almost every scene in which they appear.  They add further flavour to the meat in this ensemble.