Release Date: March 18, 2011
Directed by: Brad Furman
Run Time: 119 min.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, William H. Macey
This new drama is based on the best-selling legal novel of the same title by Michael Connelly.
Matthew McConaughey stars as Michael “Mick” Haller, a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who’s in such high demand that he operates out of the backseat of his Lincoln Continental. Representing hookers, thieves and drug dealers, his clientele embodies the true bottom-dwellers of the city. As a result he often takes heat for his willingness to defend such people. During a tense elevator ride one high-ranking D.A. official asks him how he sleeps at night.
Despite his street affiliations, Mick Haller is a ridiculous charmer when it comes to women as well as the legal system. The lawyer has a young daughter with his ex (Marisa Tomei), who, ironically, works as a prosecutor. The two often bump into each other at work, though they maintain a friendly disposition towards one another. Sometimes their interactions are a little too friendly, given the proposed circumstances.
The story at the heart of “The Lincoln Lawyer” begins with Mick being referred to the case of a wealthy Beverly Hills playboy whose been accused of rape and attempted murder. He was specifically requested by the defendant. As Louis Roulet, Ryan Phillippe appears as baby-faced and innocent as he did in Cruel Intentions nearly twelve years ago. His character is a well-dressed and well-spoken 32-year-old who comes from a very wealthy family. Roulet is accused of committing the aforementioned crime against a high-priced call girl whom he met in a bar. From the moment Haller meets Louis, he’s bombarded with declarations of his innocence. His client also makes it clear that he will not take any kind of a plea. The family of Louis Roulet believes he’s being set up by a prostitute who sees dollar signs.
Using his partner (William H. Macey) as well as his connections in the legal world, Mick begins to dig up evidence on his new case. Soon, his client’s outrageous story begins to seem as if it might bare some truth. For instance, video footage from that night shows the woman sliding her number to him on a napkin. Haller also comes across conflicting pieces of evidence that are suggestive of something much more sinister. The usually happy-go-lucky defense attorney is left feeling anxious and troubled as he tries to get to the bottom of the heinous crime.
“The Lincoln Lawyer” is a variation of the typical good guy vs. bad guy drama. While depicting the “intricacies of the law and how Haller must uphold it” (E! review), the film puts the attorney in a position where he must figure out how to best handle his case while respecting the rules of the court. Furthermore, good vs. evil is not always as clear-cut when it comes to the justice system.
Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 stars. This movie is better than is hinted by its preview, and that’s saying a lot. In the beginning, Matthew McConaughey seems a little too cool for school with his charming ways, and his performance seems like just that: a big performance. However this fades as the film’s plot begins to unravel. When the story takes on a serious tone, the actor puts on the performance of a lifetime. It’s refreshing to see him in this kind of part again. It’s been a long time since he played a similar role, and the character of Mick Haller will surely jump start Hollywood’s interest in him again (if he even needs that).
Ryan Phillippe also deserves praise for his portrayal of the accused Louis Roulet. He does an amazing job with his character, to the point that he’s easily dislikable even if you believe he’s innocent. Like McConaughey, it’s refreshing to see Phillippe in a new compelling role.
William H. Macey, a real gem in the film world, acts as the wise and pleasant character of Frank Levin. Having him on the screen was a pleasure, especially because he’s sporting long shaggy hair and a mustache. Macey always lights up a story, adding a facet of truth and humility to it.
On the other hand, Marisa Tomei does a fine job, but her character’s relationship with Mick Haller seems pretty unrealistic. Also for a prosecutor she’s got a pretty easygoing demeanor. Not once do you see her get upset about anything. She’s also incredibly charmed by the father of her child, as the two get along so well that you’re left wondering “Why aren’t they together?” Perhaps if there was some elaboration on their past and why they weren’t together, the angle would have worked better.
The Charleston Daily Mail makes mention of Director Brad Furman’s “weakness for hand-held shaky-cams to convey a jangly sense of spontaneity” that you see in the very beginning, but thankfully this doesn’t last long. That’s a good thing because it would make for a serious headache. Such a style would also distract from the story, which by itself is played out very quickly. The Daily Mail’s review reads that Furman “wisely lays off style for its own sake, staying out of the way to let Connelly’s quirky, vividly drawn characters carry the story.”
Though “The Lincoln Lawyer” has a run time of 119 minutes, it certainly doesn’t seem that long. Maybe that’s because my eyes were glued to the screen.