‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ Movie Review

Movies
April 1, 2011

Matthew McConaughey shines as a sleazy attorney caught between justice and revenge

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Starring Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei & William H. Macy
Directed by Brad Furman
Rated R, 118 minutes

After a dismal run of disappointing comedy flops, Matthew McConaughey makes a strong dramatic comeback in The Lincoln Lawyer as a slick, sleazy defense attorney who conducts business out of his Town Car.

His character, Mick Haller, has carved a successful, streetwise niche in the Los Angeles legal system representing clients who can afford to pay for his services, who know the evidence is stacked against them—and who may very well be guilty. If Haller can’t get them completely off the hook, he can usually at least make sure they avoid a lifetime in prison…or a death sentence.

But his latest client, a rich, privileged preppy (Ryan Phillippe) charged with a vicious sexual assault, rocks Heller’s world when evidence begins to suggest something creepier, deeper and darker than the case at hand.

Based on a bestselling novel by novelist Michael Connelly, a former Los Angeles Times crime reporter, The Lincoln Lawyer crackles with crisp dialogue, a juicy plot punctuated with titillating twists and turns, and a strong cast of familiar faces.

Marisa Tomei plays Heller’s ex-wife, a spitfire prosecuting attorney ideologically opposed to his unsavory line of defense work—putting the “scumbags” she locks away back on the street. Not surprisingly, she’s still carrying a bit of a flame for her bad-boy former hubby, the father of their young daughter.

William H. Macy is Heller’s rumpled investigative partner, charged with digging up the dirty details that will hopefully add up to a get-out-of-jail card for his clients.

Brian Cranston (from TV’s acclaimed Breaking Bad) is a crusty police officer with no love for Heller—especially when it appears that the lawyer might be a suspect himself. Michael Peña is a shady con whose story could shed some vital light. The ultra-versatile John Leguizamo is a fast-talking bail bondsman hiding some powerful secrets. Frances Farmer, whose career spans stage, screen and TV, plays the mother of Phillipe’s character, a woman who’ll do anything to keep her son out of prison.

And country star Trace Adkins has a tasty cameo as the burly leader of a biker gang that’s become one of Heller’s repeat customers.

But the show really belongs to McConaughey, who conveys a riveting range of emotion as doubt and danger set in around him and discoveries lead to a decision dangling in the balance between justice and revenge.

This is the kind of movie where too much description takes the well-earned punch out of its surprises. But suffice it to say, if you’re a fan of Law and Order or any of TV’s other crime ’n’ courtroom procedurals, you’ll love the movie’s gritty depiction of the murky fishbowl world of justice-for-hire in which McConaughey’s Lincoln lawyer swims.

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