It has almost become a punchline in Hollywood about Matthew McConaughey being a sex symbol who can never keep his shirt on in the movies. He is basically known as a piece of beefcake, something for the girls to ogle at in such trite flicks as The Wedding Planner and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. But, he has also delivered some strong acting in films such as Frailty and Lone Star which were basically character roles. His latest is a courtroom drama called The Lincoln Lawyer. It is arguably one of his best performances.
Matthew stars as Mick Haller, a low-end lawyer who works out of his Lincoln town car. He’s the kind of legal mind who works to free petty criminals, drug users and drug dealers. One day, he gets a tip that a very rich Beverly Hills playboy Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) is accused of attempted murder of a young woman. Haller has been recommended for the case and he sees big bucks in the payoff.
As he begins to investigate the case, he finds that facts are not as they seem. His assistant Frank (William H, Macy) begins dig up some inconsistencies with all the testimony. Haller’s ex-wife Maggie (Marisa Tomei) is assigned to the case for the prosecution, which also causes friction. Soon, she drops out of the case but stays in his life.
The investigation speedily pushes to trial and as it does, Mick Haller finds that everything he thinks about the case is wrong and he may be in over his head. The idea of lawyer-client confidentially versus the idea of doing the right thing is the basic element driving the plot. The Lincoln Lawyer is all about the investigation and trial of Louis and how the rich play a different game.
This film is both a great ride and a thrilling court room drama. It works on so many levels. Director Brad Furman gives the entire picture a gritty 1970’s production style which gives the tale another element of reality. He takes the script by John Romano and delivers a roller coaster style, thinking man’s ride. Instead of relying on camera tricks and flashy edits, the tale of The Lincoln Lawyer runs more along the line of classic Film Noir letting the cast work their magic.
One hasn’t seen this strong of a cast in years. Even in the smaller roles, there are some great actors. The lead prosecutor is Josh Lucas, the court house worker who gets Mick the case is John Leguizamo and Louis’ Mom is played by Frances Fisher.
Oscar winners William H, Macy and Marisa Tomei are both working in small but still important parts. Macy finds a different beat with his character Frank, giving the slight part a concentrated spin. Marisa is stuck with ‘the girlfriend’ part but does hold her own in this thankless role.
The biggest surprise from the supporting cast is Laurence Mason as Mick’s driver Earl. This small but pivotal role is done with such a bright-eyed charm that should put this actor on the ‘must-cast’ list. He is a sidekick with a strong presence.
The most exalted compliments have to go to Matthew McConaughey. This is one of the strongest performances of his career. He plays a fully developed character and not a movie star role. The role is full of grit and doubt, showing the flaws that even a good man can have in his life.
One hopes that The Lincoln Lawyer will be successful enough to generate a series. This is the type of character McConaughey could explore in an artistic way and build as a franchise. It has the potential to be something we could be watching for years. Don’t miss this grown-up piece of cinema.