Screen Rant's Vic Holtreman reviews The Lincoln Lawyer
The Lincoln Lawyer started off for me on the right note. The opening credits started the film with some cool retro-sounding music and a definite early 70s vibe to the visuals, so it got some points from out out of the gate. The film wastes no time in introducing us to Matthew McConaughey as Mick Haller, a slick lawyer with more than a touch of con man who practices law out of an old Lincoln Continental and defends accused criminals who would otherwise be depending on a public defendant. Of course he doesn't do this pro-bono, but instead makes some very good coin which usually comes from the ill-gotten gains of those he defends.
He's always on the lookout for a case that will bring him some decent cash, regardless of who the defendant is - and as the film goes on we discover this has caused his marriage to Maggie Macpherson (played by Marisa Tomei) to come to an end. They share a young daughter and while they're divorced, they're still on (more than) speaking terms. She also happens to be a prosecutor, which puts her on the opposite "team" when it comes to court battles.
A buddy, Val (John Leguizamo), brings Mick a case that could be worth a LOT of money: A rich kid from a very wealthy and powerful family has been arrested for beating up a prostitute quite badly. He insists (very convincingly) that he's innocent - not that it matters to Mick - and Mick takes the case. Mick works with private investigator and long time friend Frank Levin (played by William H Macy sporting a cool long hair look). Frank has a bad feeling about the kid (played by Ryan Phillippe) - and although Mick is super street-savvy, he's a bit blinded by the amount of potential money involved.
As is usual in this sort of film, things are not what they seem (and frankly, the trailer for this gave away much more than it needed to) and we're left with not only seeing how Mick defends the case, but his feelings as he begins to suspect that his client may not in fact be the wide-eyed innocent he claims to be.
The screenplay was written by John Romano and has decent dialog - despite the overall serious tone of the film there were quite a few lighthearted moments throughout that elicited laughter from the audience (and even cranky old me). It's based on a novel by author Michael Connelly, whose work I'm not familiar with - the closest comparison I could think of is that it reminded me of an adaptation of a John Grisham novel.
Brad Furman directed the film, and either it was more prevalent early on or I just got used to it - but he couldn't help but employ shaky cam right from the get go. I'm sorry, but there's nothing more annoying to me than shaky cam used in scenes where the only thing happening is two people are having a CONVERSATION. I don't dig the supposed cinema verité thing of the handheld, you-are-there school of filmmaking. If there is a scene where two people are just having a conversation, I want the camera to represent my point of view while watching them - and when I'm in a conversation with people I don't bob and weave like a boxer, thank you very much. There was also some of the extreme close-up camera work I've seen recently and it's a bit much - I don't need to be so close that I can see the pores on peoples' faces.
But I digress...
Before you start thinking I didn't like The Lincoln Lawyer, let me guide you back - I really enjoyed the film a lot. McConaughey, who, frankly, is not known for his acting chops, did a very admirable job here. Of course he has no problem playing affable and charming, but he also brought a seriousness and a bit of intensity that goes beyond anything I've seen him do previously. Ryan Phillippe did a decent job, although there was something about his performance that felt a bit at arm's length or a little cold - but then one could say that was appropriate for the role he was playing. Macy is ALWAYS a joy to watch in any role he plays and that was the case here once again.
It was nice seeing Marisa Tomei back again in a fairly beefy supporting role (although I will forever see her as the girlfriend in My Cousin Vinny). Although John Leguizamo is in the film, don't go in expecting to see much of him - he's in it for maybe five minutes total.
The script bounces around a bit and unfortunately if you think about the ending too much you may snicker a bit, but overall, if you're looking for an engaging and entertaining legal thriller, then you might want to check out The Lincoln Lawyer.
Here's a trailer for The Lincoln Lawyer:
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