The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
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The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

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ANDREW LIKEThere are few figures in Hollywood that cause more personal strife for me than Matthew McConaughey.  It seems like he's torn between movies that are designed specifically to show off his abs (Fool's Gold, Surfer, Dude), shovel him into a dopey romantic lead (Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Failure to Launch) or feature great performances from the man that go, sadly, unnoticed (Frailty, Two For The Money).  The Lincoln Lawyer sidesteps most of the chocolate-coated McConaughey that we've gotten in the past and while it's not a great film, it's a pretty solid entertainment for a genre that's gone overlooked in recent years.

The Lincoln Lawyer does it's damndest to recall the halcyon days of high drama lawyer films like The Firm, The Pelican Brief or McConaughey's own A Time To Kill.  McConaughey plays alcoholic lawyer Mickey Haller.  He operates primarily out of the back of his cherry Lincoln sedan and gets his cases from his firm boss Val Valenzuela (John Leguizamo).  Seems that Val has a plum case for Mickey involving the defense of a rich yuppie accused of beating a woman nearly to death.

Mickey begins investigating into the case, which appears to him (but certainly not to the audience) to be an open and shut case of someone trying to hang Louis out to dry for his money.  Certain details come to light that throw a bit more suspicion on Louis' case and Mickey begins to find a few patterns from some previous case's of his.  What bothers him most is that the details of Louis' case remind him of another where he didn't have faith in his client's innocence and may have gone to jail clean of the crime committeed.  Mickey doesn't want to make that mistake again but learns that perhaps Louis isn't forthcoming with all the details that innocent people usually provide.

Then there's Louis' mother, always hovering around and determined to do anything to keep her baby out of prison.

It's good to have the acting McConaughey back.

Now depending on how familiar you are with casting for type you may be able to judge the yuppie's guilt on who he's played by.  Louis Roulet is the accused and he's played by Ryan Phillipe with a maximum of upper class nose turning.  The other story queues are arranged with equally appropriate casting.  You've got the supportive ex-wife and now prosecuting DA (gasp!) played by Marisa Tomei, the scruffy but lovable private eye played by William H. Macy, and even Bryan Cranston (of TV's Breaking Bad) shows up to glower and be intense as a detective.

Any more details and I threaten to jeopardize the shocking twists that lie ahead.  Granted, they're not very surprising, but they're well constructed in the framework of the story and every player brings a bit of personality and pizazz to the table.  This could have been a paycheck movie for any one of them but thankfully that ended up not being the case, and I'm especially proud of the way The Lincoln Lawyer doesn't shy away from the inherent misogyny that keeps some female assault cases from being pushed to their logical conclusion.  It's a subtle critique at first, but by the time Mickey has to manipulate three or four different layers of the law to make his point it becomes clear that the system just doesn't work right too many times.

Now McConaughey's role as Mickey isn't going to catapult him back to Oscar buzz status.  You can see in many screens that the chops are still there but the underlying story just isn't meaty enough to bring his full talent up front.  But McConaughey works with the movies occasional confusing emotional beats with intelligence and more than a bit of his natural charm.  It's fun watching him piece things together and by the end, when all the pieces fall in place, it's hard not to root for a guy that knows just how to put a biker gang to good use.

William H. Macy is as fun as his hair is.

A special note for actor Shea Wingham as well.  He's been a favorite character actor of mine since his role in All The Real Girls.  It looks like his work on Boardwalk Empire landed him the role of a prison informant in The Lincoln Lawyer.  Look out for him in the three scenes that he has in the movie.  Wingham completely dominates the screen with his subversive nature and steals those moments.  The man deserves larger roles and you will treasure the few minutes he has on-screen.

The Lincoln Lawyer isn't the type of film that's going to put a new crop of fresh faced youngsters into law school.  But damn if it didn't keep my butt entertained for a solid two hours on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  Matty McC, it's good to know you still have it in ya bud.

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The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

Directed by Brad Furman.
Screenplay by John Romano.
Based on the book by Michael Connelly.
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei and Ryan Phillippe.

Posted by Andrew

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