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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

The Lincoln Lawyer

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4_Chicks_Small  Judy Thorburn

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The Lincoln Lawyer

For the first time since he starred opposite Sandra Bullock and Samuel L. Jackson in 1996's A Time To Kill, Matthew McConaughey returns to the courtroom in this slick, legal thriller opposite Ryan Phillippe.

Since then, the hunky actor has appeared in numerous cheesy romantic comedies that showed off his well sculpted, shirtless body. I get a kick out of male eye candy as much any other heterosexual female. But, I must say, it is nice to once again see McConaughey flex his “acting” muscles and deliver a compelling, effective performance. The Lincoln Lawyer is his best role yet.

In this movie directed by Brad Furman from a screenplay by John Romano based on Michael Connelly's 2005 crime novel of the same name, McConaughey portrays Mick Haller, a charismatic, street wise criminal defense attorney that works out of the back seat of his chauffeured Lincoln Continental with a license plate that reads “NT GUILTY”. Haller is sort of an ambulance chaser driving around the underbelly of his home base, Los Angeles, making it from month to month defending petty criminals, low life drug dealers, hookers, and other small cases when suddenly the case of a lifetime comes along.

Mick is asked to represent a spoiled, rich, 32 year old playboy, Louis Roulet (a well cast, believable Ryan Phillippe) accused of attempted murder of a prostitute he met in a bar, which he says he didn't commit. As information is uncovered, there appears to be a tie in with a similar case in which a man, Jesus Martinez (Michael Pena), was found guilty four years ago of killing a hooker. Mick was the man's defense attorney, and at that time was unable to get him acquitted. It soon comes to light that Roulet, is not only guilty of the crime he is charged but also the violent rape and murder which put an innocent man behind bars. Burdened by a guilty conscience and determined to free a wrongly imprisoned man and make it right, Mick is trapped by attorney client privilege that prevents him from using any evidence against Roulet, even if it proves his guilt.

Mick soon realizes that he is dealing with a schemer, whose handsome blonde looks belie the evil darkness within, and that this case is more complicated and dangerous than he ever expected. No stranger to courtroom tactics, Mick has to somehow dig into his bag of tricks and use every angle to outwit and out play his client, a master manipulator, especially since not only his career, but his life and those of others are at stake.

The Lincoln Lawyer is engaging and well made with a few twists. I enjoyed the film. It is worth seeing, but it plays out more like one of those really good TV legal dramas such as Law and Order, or a movie of the week. The solid supporting cast in smaller roles includes Marisa Tomei as a city prosecutor and Mick's long time love interest/ mother of his young daughter; William H. Macy as Mick's wise cracking, long haired private investigator; Frances Fisher as Roulet's icy, shrewd mother; Josh Lucas (he looks enough like McConaughey to play his brother) as the prosecuting attorney, and John Leguizamo as the sleazy bail bondsman who sets Mick up with Roulet. In a where the heck has he been all these years moment, Michael Pare (star of The Philadelphia Experiment, Eddie and the Cruisers) shows up as a detective who has issues with Mick.

While there are familiar elements, what makes this film an effective thrill ride is McConaughey. He shines and wholeheartedly carries the story from start to end.

On an interesting note, during a TV interview with Jay Leno to promote the film, the actor said he originally wanted to be a lawyer, but woke up one morning at the age of 21 and did the math. He didn't want to spend so many years going to school to get his law degree, and so he switched his career program to film production. “Now, I can be a lawyer for six months (in a film), then retire (that role) and do something else”, he said.

In preparation for his role as the defense attorney, McConaughey followed lawyers cutting deals, and sat in on few trials. He added, “I got to see them as performers. Good ones can win a case and poor ones can sink it.” The actor might as well have been referring to his performance as The Lincoln Lawyer. The jury is in with the verdict on his side. Case closed.