The Lincoln Lawyer

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The last film I reviewed, The Drop, also got 3/4 stars from me, and I give The Lincoln Lawyer the same honor. I was tempted to bring it up to 3.5/4 stars for one reason and one reason only, and that is the charisma of the lead actor, Academy Award winner Mathew McConaughey (man, it feels good to type that). I realize this isn’t quite enough to bring up the film to the next level, but I really wish it was. If anyone can do it, McConaughey can.

The Lincoln Lawyer depicts defense attorney Mick Haller (Mathew McConaughey) who does his lawyering out of the back of an old Lincoln. He normally deals with lowlifes, but one day a bail bondsmen gets him a very high profile client. Haller, sensing cash, goes for it, and gets trapped by him. The client, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe), claims he is innocent of assaulting a prostitute. Seems fishy, and it is. Haller and his private investigator, Frank Levin (William H Macy), quickly discover that not all is as it seems, and connect Roulet to something in their past. This is all to no avail though, as Haller is corner by Roulet nevertheless and must figure out how to escape from attorney-client privilege and put Roulet away.

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The strength of this film is mainly in McConaughey’s presence. The film wouldn’t work half as well without his charisma in the lead. That’s not to say he doesn’t do some solid acting here, because he definitely does. It sort of takes a backseat though, as the film doesn’t really focus on the more darker emotional moments that McConaughey has enough for them to come out as the main takeaway from this movie. Mostly though, you are inescapably drawn in by the strength of Haller’s personality; not necesssarily because he’s the most admirable guy in the world, but because he’s a character. As they say in Pulp Fiction, “just because you are a character that doesn’t mean you have character,” and while that matters a lot in real life, not so much in a movie. McConaughey has that great quality of a movie star, someone you can’t help but watch due to an undefinable characteristic, and it’s allowed to shine here, and brighter than anything else.

This isn’t to undermine the talents of the supporting cast, which are considerable. We have William H Macy as the PI, Marisa Tomei as Haller’s ex-wife, and Bryan Cranston as a skeptical detective all rattling around in the background, which is nice because they’re all familiar faces and good actors. There might be a few too many minor characters to be honest, but they’re all colorful and they are all standout. The motorcycle gang, the chauffeur, and Louis’s mother are particularly memorable.

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The plot may get a bit complicated by the end and try to be too twisty for its own good. It piles several payoff scenes on top of each other in quick succession, with diminishing returns each time. This isn’t a huge problem if you’re watch the film for the right reasons, namely the cast, but it is a problem just the same. It has the effect of leaving one uncertain as to when the film is going to end; there are about three scenes back to back that seem like the end, only to have the actual ending come in the fourth.

The Lincoln Lawyer isn’t a great film, but it is a wonderful modern example of what Hollywood used to be great at. This is a fun movie, and it’s just smart and charming enough to be good. Without Mathew McConaughey, I doubt it would have accomplished these things, but I suppose we’ll never know. This is a movie you can turn on just about any time and have fun watching. It didn’t change my life or anything, but I’m glad I saw it. It’s a fun movie.

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“I checked the list of people I trust and your name ain’t on it.”

Long story short: 3/4 stars

For Further Reading:

Roger Ebert review
The New York Times review

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2 responses to “The Lincoln Lawyer

  1. This is usually seen as the movie that put McConaughey back on everybody’s radar and with good reason, too. He’s wonderful in it and the movie itself allows him to just play up all his strengths. Good review.

    • Ah the McConaissance. One of my favorite periods in cinematic history.
      The movie could have been more powerful if it had focused on McConaughey’s darker moments, but nevertheless it’s fine the way it is and lots of fun.

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