Review: The Lincoln Lawyer
PLOT: A slick attorney, Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey), is hired to defend a rich Beverly Hills real estate developer (Ryan Phillippe) in a brutal assault case.
REVIEW : Now this is a real surprise. By now, I’ve all but written off McConaughey as an actor to take seriously. Fifteen years ago, around the time he did A TIME TO KILL, he seemed like a really promising new talent, but years of awful rom-coms where all he had to do was grin and take his shirt off, all but ruined his credibility. Even the occasional sleeper like FRAILTY (a VERY underrated flick) wasn’t enough to make up for garbage like FAILURE TO LAUNCH, GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST and FOOL’S GOLD. But, just when it seemed like he was going to crash and burn, he’s come along with THE LINCOLN LAWYER, in a role which seems tailor-made, and shows acting ability I assumed he’d lost.
It helps that he’s got some great source material to chew on, with this being an adaptation of the best-selling novel by Michael Connelly, who; despite being one of the bestselling authors in America, has so far gone mostly unexplored at the multiplex (although it’s possible BLOOD WORK- which remains one of Clint Eastwood’s only truly bad films, might have scared producers away).
Mick Haller’s a very colorful character, with him starting off as little more than a shrewd mouthpiece for scumbag clients. He carries himself like some kind of gangster, with him being chauffeured around in his Lincoln Town car by his chauffeur Earl (Laurence Mason), and doing dirty deals with bikers, petty criminals, paparazzi, and other disreputable characters.
Of course, seeing as how he’s the hero, he’s not without redeeming characteristics. He’s on good terms with his sexy ex-wife (Marisa Tomei, who only gets better looking the older she gets), and is a loving father to their daughter. He also has a nice-guy private investigator on his payroll, played by William H. Macy, who’s given the unenviable task of rocking both a mullet and a mustache, but somehow manages to get away with both.
To be sure, this is a comeback role if ever there was one, and McConaughey bursts with a charisma here I haven’t seen him show since A TIME TO KILL (could it be that he’s actually, gasp, trying?). He really gets to show off his chops about forty minutes in, once the plot really starts to cook, and the truth about his scumbag client, played by Phillippe is revealed. From there, THE LINCOLN LAWYER is a damn solid courtroom thriller, although it does peter out just a tad towards the end, with the plot getting a little too convoluted for its own good.
The only problem with this being McConaughey’s show all the way, is that it leaves the rest of the top-notch supporting cast with little to do. Tomei has to make due with the bland love interest role, where all she needs to do is look pretty, and comfort McConaughey when he’s down. Josh Lucas; once touted as the next Paul Newman, gets a nothing role as perhaps the dumbest screen prosecutor in history (with him making a stunningly dumb move while cross examining Francis Fisher’s character that me wince). And Bryan Cranston, one of the best actors in the biz, as shown by the unbelievably good BREAKING BAD, gets a two-dimensional role, with him playing bad cop to Michael Paré’s (yes, THAT Michael Paré) good cop.
The only supporting cast member that really gets to make an impression is Macy, who’s great as the street-wise PI, with him being the conscience in McConaughey’s operation. As for Phillippe, I don’t want to give too much away about his role, but I thought he was a bit bland, as a really sharp antagonist that could go mano-a-mano with McConaughey was needed (like Edward Norton opposite Richard Gere in the great PRIMAL FEAR).
Nevertheless, THE LINCOLN LAWYER is a really tight courtroom thriller that reminded me how much I missed that genre, with relatively few offerings coming out since FRACTURE a few years ago. This is a fun, smart, adult blockbuster, and well worth a watch, even if you tend to be wary of anything starring McConaughey. He delivers here, big time.