The Lincoln Lawyer

Director: Brad Furman
Starring: Marisa Tomei, Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Josh Lucas and John Leguizamo
Distributor: Roadshow Films
Runtime: 119 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
| JustWatch |
Rating notes: Mature themes, violence, sexual references and coarse language

A screen adaptation of a novel by popular crime writer, Michael Connolly – and this reviewer has read all Connolly’s books so was in a high state of expectation for the film. Expectations more than fulfilled!

The Lincoln Lawyer is Mike Haller, a self-confident and shrewd (even devious) lawyer who takes on any case he can chase and get, though he does have his antennae up for who is guilty and who is not. Having lost his driving licence (he is prone to drinking), he has hired a driver for his Lincoln and works from the back seat as he is chauffeured around Los Angeles.

Mike Haller is played by Matthew McConaughey (not one of this reviewer’s favourite actors) and he brings his character to life vividly and convincingly. It is, perhaps, McConaughey’s best role. He looks the part, sounds the part and the screenplay (a very good adaptation from the novel by John Romano) enables him to display his skills as a wheeler-dealer par excellence in the opening sequences – very cocky with a mixture of suavity and smugness.

It is no wonder that he gets the job of defending a young real estate agent, Louis Roulet, who is accused of assault and battery. And the audience gets the chance to consider the case with Haller as we see two versions of what might have happened, the defendant’s plausible explanation and the police theory.

There are complications, of course, and Mike Haller finds himself in a position where he has to draw on some moral principles, investigate the justice of a case he had previously defended, and exercise his shrewdness to make justice do right at the end (which he does in a fascinatingly intricate performance, giving the impression that the course of events has nothing to do with him). McConnaughey is also convincing as a man surprised to have to be wrestling with his conscience.

Director, Brad Furman, not only keeps the action going, but he directs a large cast, each of whom is essential to the plot. Sometimes they appear in only one or two sequences but they are given enough to do by the screenplay to make an impression and for us to appreciate how they are part of the Lincoln lawyer’s plan. They include, Michael Pare as a detective who despises Haller, Michael Pena as a man imprisoned for murder, Margarita Levieva as the assaulted prostitute, Frances Fisher as Louis Roulet’s demanding mother, Bob Gunton as the family legal counsel, Trace Adkins as a very hairy biker who becomes involved with the case and Shea Wigham as an addict snitch giving testimony in court.

While Marisa Tomei is good as Haller’s wife and Josh Lucas as the inadequate prosecuting lawyer, it is Ryan Philippe as Louis Roulet who is a match for Haller, the role of a man from a cushioned life who finds he has to protest his innocence. The other fine performance, as always, comes from William H. Macy as Haller’s investigator and friend.

All the threads seem to be tied together well at the end so, all in all, a superior example of this kind of crime, investigation, court proceedings movie.

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