Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Lincoln Lawyer - a Review

The Lincoln Lawyer - Poster | A Constantly Racing Mind
"The Scariest Client a Lawyer Will Ever Have is an Innocent Client."

Show me a murder mystery, with some good plot twists, strong, believable characters, excellent acting, and you can hook my attention for about two hours. The Lincoln Lawyer does exactly this. Matthew McConaughey (A Time to Kill) comes into his own as defense lawyer Mick Haller. Marisa Tomei (The Fighter) co-stars as Haller's ex-wife and prosecuting attorney Maggie McPherson. William H. Macy (Fargo) is Frank Levin, Haller's trusty side-kick and investigator. Rounding off this smart engaging cast is the baby-faced villain, Louis Roulet played by Crash star Ryan Phillippe. Riding around Los Angeles, as cool and smooth as he can be, in his Lincoln Town car, Haller defends the lowlifes of the City of Angels. Steady pacing keeps this suspense-thriller on the move. The Lincoln Lawyer is rated R and is just shy of two hours.


Brought to us by sophomore director Brad Furman, who has only one other feature length film credit, which is a 2007 crime drama called "The Take". A casual viewer's first thoughts might be that this is just a longer version of Law and Order. However, that viewer would be wrong. What "The Lincoln Lawyer" has is an excellent story, by novelist Michael Connelly. Adapted by John Romano (Nights in Rodanthe) whose writing credits list mostly above average television shows going all the way back to the days of "Hill Street Blues;" Romano is no stranger to the crime drama. Most importantly, what this film has over your typical television show, is Matthew McConaughey. Casted as the wise cracking, L.A. defense lawyer who has neither an office, nor a driver's license, McConaughey plays the character Mick Haller with wit and sarcasm that comes off not only as charming, but also genuine. Haller is divorced from Maggie (Tomei) and they have a ten year-old daughter. Their relationship is amicable, and from time to time the two get together for alcohol induced conjugal visits. Haller's clients are usually bikers, drug dealers, and prostitutes. He is surprised when Val Valenzuela (John Leguizamo) tips him off on a very lucrative client who is seeking his services. Louis Roulet (Phillippe) has money, looks, and a very big problem. Roulet is in jail for assault, and was essentially caught red handed, or so it seems. Louis has a very strong and rich mother, played Frances Fisher ("The Roommate") as a rich and powerful real estate agent. She reminds me of Evelyn Harper, Charlie Sheen's mother in the "Two and A Half Men" television show. Arrested for an alleged assault on a prostitute, Louis cries foul and blubbers like a baby while claiming his innocence. Hiring Haller to defend him in this case, Roulet is adamant about no jail time no matter what. Not caring why this guy chose him as his defense council despite the fact that his mother has a very powerful and influential legal firm on permanent retainer. Going for the money, Haller delves into Roulet's case at full speed. Already prepared with initial investigation work, Haller and Levin (Macey) present their ideas for the case to Roulet, it seems open and shut. Haller's initial strategy is to discredit the victim and chief witness, Regina "Reggie" Campo (Margarita Levieva). Campo is a prostitute, and not a credible witness. Director Furman spends around spends about fifteen to twenty minutes having Haller and team deduce and document Campo's act of solicitation.
The Lincoln Lawyer - Marisa and Matthew | A Constantly Racing Mind

Ben Furman directs this film in most cases wisely, building his characters and the defense case for Roulet, while preparing the audience for the final outcome. Haller is more than just an ambulance chaser, he is a father and a sometimes husband to Tomei's Maggie, and there must be something good about him if she still sleeps with him although they are divorced. Haller's greatest fear is not being able to tell innocence from evil and that says a lot about the character. The chemistry between Tomei and McConaughey is warm and friendly. Tomei's Maggie even shows up for moral support for the final courtroom battle. I liked them together. Macy's longhaired Levin character speaks volumes about his acting skill considering that Levin's character only makes about half the film. 
Casting wise we have some pretty good choices with Phillippe as the spoiled bratty rich kid. In some ways since playing the naïve cop in Crash seven years ago, and his embarrassing part in MacGruber last year, he hasn't really changed much. He still seems like the pretty boy expecting to get his way. Yes, his persona fits this character. I really couldn't see anyone else playing Louis Roulet better. Some pleasant casting surprises I am happy to mention are the appearance of Michael Peña (Shooter) as Jesus Martinez, the wrongly convicted man of an earlier murder. It was also good to see Michael Paré ("Eddie and the Cruisers") is still alive and acting. Emmy award winner Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad") makes a small appearance but does it well. Country singer turning actor, Trace Adkins, who is known for such Country hits as "I'm Tryin," and "Chrome" and others plays the stereotypical biker thug and he makes about three appearances in this film total. Adkins's baritone voice and burley stature gives the role of presence.
The Lincoln Lawyer - Matthew and Ryan | A Constantly Racing Mind

Some take a ways from "The Lincoln Lawyer" are: Sex with your ex is okay, especially if she's Marisa Tomei because she's hot! Throughout the film, the story continually shows Mick and Maggie as friendly adversaries but passionate lovers and respectful of each other and putting their daughter first in their relationship. For example is when their daughter crawls in bed with the two after Mick spends the night. Maggie asks Mick to not be in bed when she wakes up, so as not to confuse the child. Secondly, that having friends in low places is a good thing. Being able to have a prostitute pass information onto a prisoner in rehab for you can come in handy. Or having a biker gang do your bidding isn't a bad thing either. Thirdly, make sure that your Christmas gifts are appropriate for the level of access you are requesting. Sad, but true, soft bribery is still alive in the good ole USA. When Haller needs access to clients in jail, he reminds the bailiff of how nice the Christmas gift he gave him was; smooth but sleazy. Getting a gun in Los Angeles is easy if you know the right stereotypical African American driver like Earl (Laurence Mason).Not all the themes that The Lincoln Lawyer presents are sordid, For instance, the rich and powerful, get away with murder; they don't. When finding himself not only in a legal dilemma, but an ethical one as well, Haller doesn't pop a smart pill, but works out the problem and comes to an elegant solution on his own. As a matter of fact, the audience tries to work out a solution along with Haller, I know I did. Also having a really solid soundtrack to cruise through Los Angeles, or your city or town for that matter, is very cool. The soundtrack for this film includes songs that range from the soulful blues of The Bobby "Blue" Band's, Ain't No Heart In the City, to the early Hip-hop of Eric B. & Rakim's Don't Sweat the Technique, and added to the mix are some Electro and Alternative Rock. I wouldn't mind driving to these songs in my car. Another lesson from this film is; don't get parking tickets. Having a parking ticket is like giving your GPS coordinates to the police. Keep that in mind the next time you commit murder.
I am thinking that even if this is just a two hour crime drama, it is a very good crime drama and is worth watching. This is not "Sahara" nor is it "Failure to Launch", nor any of the other not so great McConaughey films. This is one of his better roles since the last time he played a lawyer in "A Time to Kill". If you don't watch it at the theater, then renting on DVD or Blue-ray is a definite option.

Movie Data

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Year: 2011
Staring: Matthew McConaughey,Marisa Tomei,Ryan Phillippe,William H. Macy
Director: Brad Furman
Producer(s): Sidney Kimmel, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Scott Steindorff
Writer: John Romano, Michael Connelly
Rating: R

Running Time: 118 minutes
Release Date: 3/18/2011

First published on Yahoo Voices on 3/21/2011