Sunday, July 17, 2011


Rated: R

Stars: Matthew McOnaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy

Director: Brad Furman

Genre: Drama/Mystery-thriller

Recently out on DVD--The Lincoln Lawyer, from the Michael Connelly novel, is a step up in class for Matthew McOnaughey, most recently remembered in this reviewer's mind for lightweight comedies such as Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. McOnaughey has some substantial acting chops, and he displays them as Mick Haller--a slick LA defense attorney who works out of the back of his Lincoln Continental, and is known for taking on the dregs of society as clients.

He's not overtly idealistic in the sense that he believes everyone--no matter how heinous the deed they may be accused of--deserves a competent defense. No, he's more of a SHOW ME THE MONEY guy, who is not above using bribes to get what he wants, or occasional sleight of hand subterfuge to pull in some extra bucks.

When a rich playboy named Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) is fingered for the rape and attempted murder of a prostitute, Haller sees visions of a big payday from the man's family. But what we're likely to believe about this defendant in the beginning gets thrown out of whack by some interesting twists and turns of the plot. Mick finds himself caught up in a web of intrigue involving a former client now doing time, a murder from the past with eerily similar overtones to the crime Roulet is charged with, and a looming threat to his own safety.

The existential dilemma posed by The Lincoln Lawyer revolves around one being sworn to a course of action that he already knows may have dire consequences if successful, but must stay the course for the sake of every principle our justice system was founded upon. A crisis of conscience. The beauty of these kinds of questions--and what contributes to the success of
The Lincoln Lawyer--is that they set us to contemplating what we would do in a similar situation. To Mick Haller's credit, he is one resourceful dude, and we root for him because we sense that beneath the obvious cynicism, there's more goodness within him than meets the eye.

Marisa Tomei, as Haller's fellow attorney ex-wife, is under utilized here--but no matter, because after her brazen in-your-face display of sexuality in The Wrestler, I will forever find myself thinking: HOW'S SHE GONNA TOP THAT?

A great hip-hop flavored soundtrack contributes to the neo-noir feel of this one. Yeah...that's LA, man.

Grade: B +