Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer

2011 release

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei
Directed by: Brad Furman

            Matthew McConaughey takes a break from being the poster boy of awful romantic comedies to return to his A Time to Kill roots in The Lincoln Lawyer. He plays LA criminal defense attorney Mick Haller, never seen too far from his beloved Lincoln sedan.

            Haller has spent his whole career defending common criminals and thugs, until he scores the case of a lifetime, defending Louis Roulet (Phillippe), a young real-estate heir accused of rape and attempted murder. Everything seems a little too straightforward; until Haller is forced to reopen an old case as his professional and personal life begins to unravel.

            This is a very watchable film, filled with flashy camera angles and a jazz-and-R&B soundtrack. McConaughey is in his element, and is far less annoying than he usually is. The character starts out as your average smug snake lawyer, complete with the eponymous fancy car and the vanity plate “NTGUILTY”. However, it’s when there’s a crack in the façade and we get to know Haller a little better than McConaughey finally gets a chance to act.

            The supporting cast is generally pretty good – Ryan Phillippe makes a good spoilt rich kid who may or may not be hiding something, Marisa Tomei lends some emotional backbone as Haller’s ex-wife and the mother of his young daughter (they’re still on good terms), William H Macy is fun as the shaggy-haired investigator Frank and Mick’s good friend, and John Leguizamo rounds the cast out doing his best Steve Buscemi impression.

            Unfortunately, the film never really draws the viewer in, always staying a little too slick or artificial to actually matter. There’s a little too much emphasis on the “procedure” aspect, which dilutes the intriguing “whodunit” plot a little. Also, a reliance on CSI Miami-style flashbacks and uniformly perfect locations doesn’t help the detachment.

            The Lincoln Lawyer is equally effective as a murder mystery and as a courtroom drama, but tries way too hard to up the cool factor and as such never becomes as engaging as it should be. One can only hope McConaughey keeps his shirt on, regulates the pearly-whites flashing and continues on this track.


Jedd Jong


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