Armed with a strong lead and a plot rife with twists and turns, “The Lincoln Lawyer” is an exciting and entertaining courtroom drama.
Though the courtroom drama genre might have worn thin after years of television procedurals and similar movies, “The Lincoln Lawyer” brings something unexpected while still remaining believable and engaging.
Matthew McConaughey (“Failure to Launch,” “Fool’s Gold”) plays the lawyer Mick Haller, who works out of his Lincoln helping small-time criminals, such as a marijuana farmer and a coke addict, get back on the streets ASAP. In the midst of all his wheeling and dealing, Mick stumbles onto a potential goldmine of a client in Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe; “Cruel Intentions,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer”), a millionaire’s son accused of rape and assault with a deadly weapon. The story takes off, encompassing a variety of twists and a surprising amount of danger from there.
A solid cadre of performers comprise the cast, McConaughey earning the most attention with his surprising gravitas. In a role he was seemingly born to play, the most entertaining parts of the movie involve McConaughey swindling his way through courtroom proceedings with a constant smirk and a never-ending charm. The balancing act he performs between always seeming in control and remaining emotionally grounded allows Mick Haller to shine from beginning to end.
With the exception of Ryan Phillipe, the rest of the cast delivers solid one-dimensional performances. William H. Macy (“Wild Hogs,” “Fargo”) plays Frank Levin, Mick’s investigator and only real partner, but isn’t given enough time to flesh out a character that would have added a little more emotional depth to the story.
Similarly, Marissa Tomei plays McConaughey’s ex-wife and love interest through the film but is given little screen time to do anything more than sit there and look exceedingly pretty. Without giving too much away, Ryan Phillipe embraces the unrelenting douche that the role requires of him, and the dynamic between Phillipe and McConaughey can often be aggravating in the best possible way.
Where “The Lincoln Lawyer” deserves the most credit is in its desire to break out of the clichés of its genre. The movie avoids many of the rote plot twists and stereotypes we’ve come to expect from this genre. There’s no massive shift in morality, no conspiracy hidden by a large corporation, government or interest group, and there is no last minute twist or glimpse of insight that turns everything on its end.
Rather, “The Lincoln Lawyer” is content with presenting its primary plot twist in the first hour and using the remainder of its time to allow Mick Haller to solve the problem in the confines of the courtroom. This approach pays off by keeping the audience engaged and educated at all times without taking advantage of them with a deus ex machina.
“The Lincoln Lawyer” is the perfect movie for the mid-March doldrums. Delivering likeable characters, an engaging story and occasional danger, “The Lincoln Lawyer” proves to be a movie with wide appeal without stooping to courtroom cliché. If you’re looking for a good movie to hold you over till the heavy hitters come out closer to summer, “The Lincoln Lawyer” is an easy recommendation.