Director: Brad Furman (The Take)
Screenplay: John Romano, Michael Connelly (novel)
Producers: Sidney Kimmel, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Scott Steindorff, Richard S. Wright
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Peña
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 118 min.
I first took note of Matthew McConaughey when he appeared as a lawyer fighting the good fight in Mississippi for Joel Schumacher in A Time to Kill. John Grisham created an interesting lawyer playing in the grey area but McConaughey really brought the character to life. He followed that performance with a few other memorable roles in the late 90s but when the new millennium hit, McConaughey’s filmography started getting spotty. I have loads of guilty love for Reign of Fire and Sahara but everything else is mostly forgettable and the string of box office hits did little to take the actor back into the field of drama and when the trailer for The Lincoln Lawyer rolled around, it wasn’t clear if this was a return to long lost form for the actor or just another forgettable film.
Adapted from Michael Connelly’s novel of the same name, McConaughey returns to the character that got him noticed in the first place: the lawyer with questionable morals. In reality, he’s the straight shooter but his way of getting things done occasionally steps over the bounds of what one would consider appropriate. With LA a mess of highways and courtrooms miles apart from each other, McConaughey’s Mick Haller has found that a travelling office is the way to go and operates his single man show from the back seat of his old school Lincoln. His clients tend to have shady pasts but a tip from a friend finds him representing a rich Beverly Hills client, played by Ryan Phillippe, who finds himself in a bit of hot water. He swears he’s not guilty. Haller thinks it’ll be an easy win. And then the past rears its ugly head and Haller finds himself defending a man guilty as sin with a streak for revenge.
This is fairly standard stuff as far as courtroom dramas adapted from pulpy novels are concerned; the difference here is that there’s little courtroom drama and loads of gritty LA underbelly as Haller’s team, including a shady bale bondsman played by John Leguizamo, William H. Macy as a PI and Haller’s good friend and an old client who barely makes an appearance but is none the less memorable at the hands of Michael Peña, help unravel the mystery behind the apparent open-and-shut case. As expected, there’s also a personal twist to the story in the form of Haller’s ex-wife, portrayed by the great Marisa Tomei, who seems on the outside of the case but still manages to fit into the story nicely.
That’s the winning combination of The Lincoln Lawyer. Though the film features a slew of really great performances, including McConaughey who shows that he still retains some talent beyond great abs – he would do well to return his focus to these shady sorts of characters he can so naturally embody rather than the generally unlikable romantic lead, it’s the screenplay by John Romano and the direction by relative new comer Brad Furman, which incorporates the personal touches with the mystery to give the film dimension. It flows beautifully and not until it’s over do you marvel at the seamless integration of the various storylines at play.
Like Unstoppable (review) felt like a throwback to the action movies of the 80s, so does The Lincoln Lawyer feel like it belongs with solid lawyer dramas of two decades ago. I didn’t realize we were even lacking movies of this ilk until Lincoln Lawyer appeared on the map. I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more good entries before the genre went on hiatus for another few years.
The Lincoln Lawyer is available on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, July 12th.
DVD Extras: Some great extras on this release including a 10 minute interview with Michael Connelly as he drives through LA visiting various spots that influenced the book and his writing in general as well as a big of history on his career, a 13 minute making-of documentary featuring interviews with some of the actors and the producers, outlining the history of the story and how the movie came together, a great one-on-one interview with McConaughey and Connelly as well as a collection of deleted scenes.
Click “play” to see the trailer:
Flixster Profile for The Lincoln Lawyer