Friday, March 25, 2011

660 - The Lincoln Lawyer review

“The Lincoln Lawyer” is the sort of film that, were you to recast most of the roles and scale back the production values, could quite comfortably be a movie of the week. Based on the novel by Michael Connelly, pic sports a solid mystery that’s the basis for a more-than-adequate legal thriller, with all the elements that entails. Virtually every night of the week sees a drama about lawyers or police where a charming protagonist navigates a web of legal intrigue to mete out justice to a heinously evil wrongdoer, and here, the story’s nothing that attempts to transcend the tube’s routine offerings.

Of course, the production values are well above TV, with good photography and convincing scenery. But what we’re really being sold here is the cast, one that, even in an era where name movie stars take TV roles, offers much greater wattage than an hour long series. The supporting roles alone include Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, and Ryan Phillippe, among a litany of other famous faces. Matthew McConaughey plays Mick Haller, the titular Lincoln Lawyer, a marginally sleazy but brilliant attorney who practices law out of the backseat of his Lincoln Continental. Haller makes a point of only defending guilty clients, and has reasoning that’s difficult to argue with: an innocent client means a chance of an undeserving soul being punished unjustly, and that’s harder to live with than letting a guilty party escape the noose.

Years of blistering criticism over McConaughey’s selection of lame romantic comedy starring vehicles has undoubtedly made him unmarketable to some, but here he strives to remind us why he got onto the A-list in the first place. Truly dreadful as some of his movies might have been, his rapport with the camera is undeniable, with a athletic handsomeness and leisurely delivery that’s engaging. Remember back in the late 90’s when some touted him as the next great actor? So much unfulfilled hype, but he has avoided that backslide into straight-to-video or TV that afflicts most stars. He fits especially well into Haller’s shoes, because it would take a guy with genuine likeability to play a guy with such a seedy vocation as moral and kind to those he loves. Even with the supporting cast, “The Lincoln Lawyer” is his show, and it’s an effort he can be much more proud of than nails-on-a-chalkboard material like “Failure to Launch.”

You could probably guess the plot: Haller gets a new client (Phillippe), a rich pretty boy accused of assault that, unfortunately, might actually be innocent. “The Lincoln Lawyer” then unfolds in scenes that all viewers will recognize as obligatory. The setup. Client meetings. Chats with investigators. Courtroom drama. Danger on the home front. Guess whether or not it ends well. You don’t need a reviewer to tell you that, but perhaps it’ll be good to know that it beats a back-to-back viewing of “Law and Order.”

3 out of 5

1 comment:

jayniejaynie said...

Great review. I too, was moved by this movie. In this movie it is both the actor and the character that are engaging. MM is excellent in his portrayal of the complex morality of Haller. Movie as wonderful character study. And the story arc itself while familiar in its bones was fleshed out with the family and friends and situations that were richly three dimensional. It was a delight to be inside the whole world of this fast talking, flawed but not lost man.