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August 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer

cast: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, and Josh Lucas

director: Brad Furman

114 minutes (15) 2010
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
EIV DVD Region 2

RATING: 5/10
review by Christopher Geary

The Lincoln Lawyer

This movie is based upon the 2005 novel by American crime writer Michael Connelly, and the story was a spin-off book from his long-running series about detective 'Harry Bosch'. Although, curiously, none of Connelly's Bosch novels (17, so far) have yet been adapted for the screen, the author's standalone novel, Blood Work - a tale concerning a retired FBI profiler - was filmed by Clint Eastwood in 2002. Here, though, Matthew McConaughey is a slick dude of Los Angeles courtrooms as Mick Haller, a manifestly overconfident defence lawyer who usually works out of his chauffeured Lincoln town car; hence the title.

Haller's latest case is a rape trial, as the wealthy Roulet family's son, Louis (a rather blank-faced Ryan Phillippe), claims that he's innocent of attacking a prostitute. While struggling to develop any degree of morality about helping the 'scum' that he usually represents, Haller is, at first, taken in by Louis' alibi, until some odd facts emerge that ultimately discredit his client, and enquiries by Haller's investigator Frank (William H. Macy), end in a killing that's disguised as gay-suicide.

With his professionalism and self-respect in tatters, and facing an ethical dilemma of knowing that Louis is guilty of this rape (and previous murders, too) Haller must find a way to expose the Roulet family's cover-up of creepy Louis' homicidal past, without ruining his own legal career through incompetence. Of course, there's a high price to pay for failure, but: "You're nobody 'till somebody shoots you." The Lincoln Lawyer is a smart and engrossing crimes drama, with a batch of solid performances from a varied supporting cast (which includes John Leguizamo, Frances Fisher, Bob Gunton, Michael Par�, and Michaela Conlin).

However, its leading man is quite blatantly a formulaic piece of Hollywood casting, as McConaughey is hardly ever convincing, even if he was portraying a third-rate lawyer who is contractually obligated to guest-star in a second-rate TV series. As the smooth-talking Haller, he's a cool operator who's empty inside. He appears savvy and yet he's pathologically unprincipled (leeching cash from bikers for sundry expenses), that it's never very credible that such an unscrupulous man could ever develop the conscience required for the otherwise interesting plot's closure, with a happy-ending for justice.

There is a genuine 'Catch-22' US legal quandary (that, presumably, formed the heart of Connelly's novel) at the core of this crime story, but the shallow characterisation by McConaughey, and some foolish clich�s (such as the 'heroic' lawyer entering a house to search for an intruder!), presented by dumb-thriller director Brad Furman (maker of The Take, 2008), wreck any measure of polished realism or dramatic authenticity that are constructed more carefully in the rest of the film. It's watchable, and boasts a generally quite intriguing legal predicament (double-jeopardy and hearsay evidence) for both the defender and the prosecutor, but superficiality in its legal specifics and a sadly lightweight star, only result in a final verdict of culpability for gross mediocrity.



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