The Lincoln Lawyer: A Legal Thriller Guilty Of Success

19 03 2011

Based on Michael Connelly’s novel of the same name, The Lincoln Lawyer sees Matthew McConaughey back in the courtroom for the first time since 1996’s A Time to Kill. Here’s the breakdown:

Mick Haller (McConaughey) is a freelance lawyer, conducting deals from the back of his Lincoln town car. But when he takes on a high profile case for a wealthy resident of Beverly Hills (Phillippe), Haller finds himself in a complex web of lies that reaches back into even his own dark past.

The Monkey: From the beginning, McConaughey is Mick Haller. And while it’s not a far stretch from the actor’s usual drawl and swagger, it works perfectly here. He’s confident, assured and jaded, which makes it all the more compelling when his facade begins to crumble over the course of the movie.

McConaughey is joined onscreen by an impressive cast. Marisa Tomei plays Maggie, Haller’s ex-wife and mother of his son, also an attorney. Their repartee is great and their chemistry is believable. The two actors capture the nuances of a relationship that just won’t die, with subtle nods to past grievances and further glimpses into Haller’s dark past, a past that drove Maggie away in the first place.

William H. Macy is always a pleasure, and his shaggy-haired turn as Frank the private investigator/best friend is no exception. But the real star is Ryan Phillippe as the spoiled defendant, Louis Roulet. His boyish looks are juxtaposed wonderfully with his twisted story, one that quickly sends the movie into a tailspin of lies and mystery. Is he guilty? Is  he not? Does it matter? Phillippe ventures out of his cookie-cutter naïveté (as seen in such films as Crash) to play an intriguing character that, at the very least, elicits an emotional reaction from viewers.

Courtroom dramas and legal thrillers are myriad, especially if you include the small screen; however, The Lincoln Lawyer was able to keep things fresh and belied many of the genres clichés. The courtroom scenes themselves were fascinating and intense, just as the action pieces throughout the film gave the impression that much more was at stake here. Watching McConaughey’s Haller twist words and work the jury in the courtroom scenes was nothing short of jaw-dropping, especially as the many pieces of the puzzle began falling into place. The fact that the plot was able to tie Haller’s past and personal hangups about his job into the mystery made for a solid and satisfying conclusion.

The Weasel: The camera work and overall tone of the film felt all wrong. Jerky shots and washed out palettes gave the impression that this was supposed to be some gritty, urban thriller; however, The Lincoln Lawyer was a legal thriller through and through, and trying to give it a “gritty” feel did nothing but distract. Even the movie’s poster is a failed attempt at misdirection, with it’s weathered appearance and sepia tones. While it seems like a small point, a solid movie that is presented in an inconsistent format makes for a slightly nagging and unsettling viewing experience.

One of the best legal thrillers of late (although that’s not saying much), The Lincoln Lawyer manages to keep viewers guessing while delivering solid performances and a tight plot.

4 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Do you enjoy Matthew McConaughey’s legal prowess onscreen? Did you find the mystery compelling? Have you read Connelly’s book? Share your thoughts in the comments!




6 responses

21 03 2011

I agree and disagree with you. I loved this book and I enjoyed this film to the max. The acting all around was fabulous as was the production. It didn’t sacrifice the drive and anxiety from the book, which can’t have been easy. The complex plot was for the most part laid out so that even a newcomer could follow along. I hated that the ending got changed but I’ll live with it because it’s faithful to what happens in the novel to the characters in the end. But, with as much as I loved the film, I loved the modern urban feel, looks, and sound of this film even more. It made the environment come alive and become part of the story and plopped it into a recognizable setting. It took a time worn genre and modernized it, keeping it hip and cool. This is well worth seeing, that’s for sure.

21 03 2011

Good insight! I didn’t realize they had changed the ending – makes me want to pick up the book now! Thanks for the comments! 🙂

8 04 2011
The Lincoln Lawyer: A Novel - OSX64 INTERNATIONAL

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6 05 2011
Cassandra Okamoto

i LOVED this movie. It’s so interesting what you brought up about the “gritty” feel because Eric was asking at the end when this was supposed to take place? The visual’s seemed as if they existed to date the movie (along with this car) but everything else seemed up to date more or less (clothes? technology? real estate?) We never came to a consensus.. The only thing I didn’t like was the lack of dialogue around his car situation? In a trailer there was a scene were his daughter was asking about his “office” while riding in the car – but that was cut from the movie? Exactly why did he not have an office? Is he not well off? Why? It seemed there was another story to be told there but it wasn’t really ever touched on, I am definitely going to start reading the book ASAP – maybe my answers are in there 🙂

6 05 2011

When a film attempts to explain every detail and become too faithful to a book, it steps into a quagmire, interrupting the flow of the story and bogging down in details. There IS a story about the car, but it’s generally not worth telling so much as showing. Haller drives from courtroom to courtroom and has decided that it isn’t worth the cost of a brick and mortar office. In that way, he’s very modern, with a virtual office. The car might be throwing you off, because it’s so old fashioned. But look beyond that. If you need more, read the excellent book.

8 05 2011

Cassandra: Yeah, good catch on the weird time-period setting. The book might have some of those answers – I totally want to read it too! Book club round 2? 😉

SittingPat: Thanks for the comment! It sounds like the book is a must-read, especially for fans of the film!

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