Title: The Lincoln Lawyer
Studio/Distributor: eOne Films
Director: Brad Furman
Principle Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Frances Fisher
Length: 118 minutes
Adapted from the crime thriller by best-selling author Michael Connelly, The Lincoln Lawyer is a stylized, gritty and intelligent film from relatively new director Brad Furman (The Take) with an R-rated screenplay by John Romano. It explores the corrupt justice system in Los Angeles from the perspective of a criminal defence attorney named Mick Haller, played by Matthew McConaughey, in what is his best performance since 2001’s Frailty. I love McConaughey and am really pleased to see him step up his game and give those tedious and predictable rom-coms he’s been making a rest!
Haller is a wheeler dealer and bottom feeder who “feels the most resonance and the most humane” dealing with the dregs of society. In his world, “There’s no client as scary as an innocent man.” He works mainly in the non-glamorous parts of Los Angeles, from his 1987 Lincoln Town Car, in which he is chauffeured between client meetings, prisons and courthouses by his trusted employee, Earl. Earl (Laurence Mason) is über cool and has one of the best lines with the zinger, “You’re nobody ‘til somebody shoots you.”
Haller abides by his own set of rules, buying favours from bailiffs, prostitutes and bike gangs (Country music star Trace Adkins plays imposing biker leader Eddie Vogel) to secure what he needs to get the job done. As the story unfolds we discover that Haller’s former client Jesus Martinez (Michael Peña) is in San Quentin for a murder he insists he didn’t commit and Haller’s doubt about his guilt is significant. His GQ-immaculate image slowly starts to deteriorate as he realizes that the pressures of his job cause him to drink more and a haggard look of grief appears on his handsome face.
Available in both English and French on DVD, The Lincoln Lawyer sports an A-1 cast of accomplished actors including, most notably, a better than usual performance by Ryan Phillippe as the ultra creepy, 32 year old wealthy realtor, Louis Roulet, whom after being accused of raping a prostitute seeks out Mick Haller to defend him. We learn later in the story that he had a good reason for choosing Haller and there are more twists and turns in this plot than a New York pretzel. Frances Fisher is equally sinister as Roulet’s mother, Mary Windsor, and a long-haired William H. Macy portrays Mick’s investigator, Frank Levin. Although Macy’s part is relatively small, it’s integral to the story arc as is John Leguizamo’s as bail bondsman Val Valenzuela.
Marisa Tomei plays Maggie McPherson, Haller’s ex and the mother of his daughter Hayley. She’s a prosecutor who obviously found it hard to be married to a public defender, but the lines defining her relationship with Mick are blurry, and the two still love each other even if they couldn’t live together. One of their key scenes was deleted and I really think that it should have been left in.
Rounding out the cast is Josh Lucas as attorney Ted Minton who represents Reggie Campo, the prostitute that Roulet is accused of raping.
Cliff Martinez orchestrates the music for the score and he’s done a superb job of finding some very appropriate and above average rap and bluesy hip hop for the soundtrack. I’m not a fan of those musical genres but in this film, they are perfect.
Special features on the DVD are above average and include some interesting documentaries: Michael Connelly: At Home On The Road, Making The Case: The Lincoln Lawyer, One On One with Matthew McConaughey and Michael Connelly (during which they interview each other), as well as Deleted Scenes and the original trailer.
The Lincoln Lawyer is a great, satisfying film that will keep you on the edge of your seat, even if the ending is a bit soft. One of the minor characters in the film asks, “I don’t get you Haller. Whose side are you on anyway?” You will wonder about that yourself until the very end!