Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer

Pimping My Ride

Matthew McConaughey's roles have usually been the action adventurer or the romantic comedy lead these days, but it has always been his breakout role in Joel Schumacher's A Time to Kill, based upon what would be my favourite amongst the John Grisham books, that still remained one of his best, until his second outing now in a role as a criminal defense lawyer in Michael Connelly's bestseller of the same name. I suppose McConaguhey can convincingly project the savvy and wily minds of what it takes to be a legal eagle, given that after all he had swapped law school for film school.

As Mick Haller, McConaughey shows how slick his character can be in glib talking his way through his myriad of contacts and networks built up over the course of his career, from ex clients to current ones, from beat cops to opposing lawyers. At times you may suddenly think of it as being a bastardization of justice, since Law Abiding Citizen reminded one and all that it's all boiled down to what you can actually prove in the court of law. So we actually cheer Haller on as the unorthodox lawyer who gets the job done, guided by a moral compass not to put an innocent man behind bars. He operates out of the Lincoln sedan, which is where the title got its name from, though a scene in the trailer that affirmed his choice of office got left out.

And as far as the trailer goes, it probably hinted at all the narrative sequence to come - with Ryan Phillippe's Louis Roulet, a rich playboy realtor who got accused of bashing up a prostitute, and for Haller to defend him only to find that his client is more than meets the eye and may not be the innocent man he incessantly proclaims to be, and ultimately finding room to threaten Haller and his family. Well, thankfully that only scratched the surface of the story, which with its rich characterization is one of the key reasons why this film should be watched, since it's not your typical Matlock episode.

I may say I've seen a number of courtroom movies and it does take something extra to provide that boost to its story, and here's where Michael Connelly aces it, by constantly highlighting a sense of danger in Haller's way that strikes very close to friends and family, never fearful of getting things out of the equation. More interestingly he presents a moral and professional dilemma for Haller who finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place, and has to utilize the full extent of his savvies to bail himself out of the situation, have justice served, lock the bad guys up and ultimately, making sure his family remains safe from the very real threats coming his way.

While lacking very big name stars, this film is full of character actors that make The Lincoln Lawyer a compelling watch. There's Marisa Tomei as Haller's ex-wife and co-prosecutor, William H. Macy as the investigator for Haller's camp, spotting some great hippie hairdo unseen in his films before, John Leguizamo, Michael Pena and Josh Lucas who plays a relatively green prosecutor. But of course McConaughey and Ryan Phillippe (always bearing a sense of having something to hide) were great opposite each other, on the surface standing on the same side of the law, but beneath there's trouble brewing with a capital T as the client-attorney privilege boundaries get close to being violated on moral grounds.

Michael Connelly is probably better known for his detective Harry Bosch series of books, but looking at how this turned out I'm secreting hoping the other films in the Mick Haller series get made as well. A great legal thriller on manipulation with a good twist at the end, perhaps the cinematography could have been improved somewhat if all shaky cam moments got converted and done the more conventional way of putting the camera on a tripod.

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