Monday, 18 July 2011
The Lincoln Lawyer
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillipe, Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy.
By Alan Bacchus
With today's information onslaught, moviegoers can't help but be influenced greatly by the publicity, hype and general hyper-awareness of any movie with any sort of profile. Every once in a while there's a negative effect resulting in a surprise discovery. And, to be honest, there wasn't much to be attracted to from the individual elements of this project – Matthew McConaughey in a rare serious part, perhaps trying to recapture the acclaim from his first breakout role in A Time To Kill. While this isn't a John Grisham story (it's from Michael Connelly, an equally proficient airport paperback writer), it feels like his brand.
That said, what a marvellous surprise to be sucked into this beguiling legal thriller. It’s a '90s throwback of sorts featuring a remarkably well thought out conceptual brainteaser of a hook. McConaughey plays Mick Haller, a bloodsucking Beverly Hills defence attorney specializing in getting criminals off and using the dirtiest tactics to do it. His latest case, in which the privileged son of a rich family finds himself charged with the rape and assault of a prostitute, looks to be another windfall. But as the layers of lies and deceit from the people involved are uncovered, Mick finds himself in a complex legal mousetrap, one that endangers himself, his colleagues and his family.
I've purposely left most of the story vague so as not to ruin some of the genuinely surprising twists along the way.
Matthew McConaughey is decent though unexceptional as the ethically challenged hero. After so many affable rom-coms, he never quite feels comfortable in the skin of this character. That said, as a good-looking, smooth-talking lawyer, he isn't stretched too far.
But director Brad Furman smartly populates his supporting roles with better actors. Watch the astonishing impact of Michael Peña (Crash) in a tiny but influential role as a former client of Haller's who was wrongly imprisoned. William H. Macy plays a greasy but resourceful investigator. Bryan Cranston shows up with little to do except look tough, as does fine character actor Shea Wingham (Tigerland), who turns himself into another terrifying Southern red neck.
Not everything lands perfectly in The Lincoln Lawyer. While the fascinating plot machinations and progression of Haller's case offer up a delightful legal conundrum, Furman and the bunch leave hanging the motivation for the rape that incites this film. As the credits roll, we get the feeling the filmmakers have exploited this crime in order to create a neat legal puzzler without sufficiently reconciling the victim. But this is all fiction, and no one really got hurt. So we can safely enjoy this disposable but excellent, purely hypothetical, conceptual legal thriller without any guilty feelings.