Monday 21 March 2011

Review: The Lincoln Lawyer

Year: 2011
Director: Brad Furman
Screenplay: John Romano
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Peña, Bryan Cranston, Bob Gunton

Synopsis is here:

The Lincoln Lawyer is an unfortunate soul, but not for the reasons one may think. Coming out in the middle of March with not much to contest it speaks volumes. The combination of Mr McConaughey's recent work (I've mostly seen him shilling smellys more than anything), first quarter dumping ground release and an oddly weak advertising campaign (the strongest marketing appears to be tweets over TV spots or anything else for that matter) seem to suggest that The Lincoln Lawyer isn't worth anyone's time. Someone could alert Lionsgate however to up their game slightly for the DVD release as The Lincoln Lawyer is quite the smooth operator.

The Lincoln Lawyer's premise has a certain appeal to it. I really enjoyed the idea of this "back seat" lawyer landing this highly unlikely case and seeing how well he can use his smarts to navigate the situation. It doesn't sound like much but the film sells this by giving us a formidable display from Matthew McConaughey.  It's the charm he gives to this character that really drives the film throughout. We see him defending reprehensible scum but not without an admirable sense of justice. In a world where even in real life we enjoy trying to shoe horn everything into simple black and white, McConaughey manages to direct this character into the awkward crawl space that is the moral gray area, while keeping us on his side throughout. We are willing to follow Mick Haller as he is not only charismatic with where he takes us, but he is also smart. We want to see where this going because Haller moves forward logically and with a knowledge other lawyers may not have. You couldn't imagine the prosecution behaving in the way he does. The screenplay and McConaughey make this feel organic and unscripted. It's what you want from a character like this.

This does cause a few issues within the movie as the narrative wishes to tie everything up far too neatly and goes against what we've just seen. It's very frustrating watching how this man operates only for the plot to fall down, as it's not willing to follow through on it's own convictions. However considering the board scope of the proceedings it's understandable, as the film does suffer from tell-us-again syndrome. An example is one scene in which McConaughey and William H Macy twice mentioning information we could have easily worked out visually. 

The films broadness doesn't mean boredom however, and the films execution (despite some oddly placed shutter speed moments) is always appealing. Brad Furman gives the look of the film enough flourish and keeps the moral issue in the forefront. Despite some of the narrative short comings; it is a courtroom thriller that mixes it's elements well enough to keep an eye on things until the end. McConaughey's turn plays well against the Beverly Hills bravado of Ryan Phillippe, an actor who doesn't get enough dues. To add to this, the large array of character actors on show here all do well with what they have to do despite one major role clearly being streamlined (Tomei) to "fit in".

The Lincoln Lawyer should hopefully find a good home on the DVD market where those who have avoided cinemas for various reasons will pick this up for a good Friday night without prejudice. With an overcrowded blockbuster season approaching quicker than one may expect, this maybe the one of the more interesting mainstream adult films that some may see in sometime.