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The Lincoln Lawyer

A movie directed by Brad Furman

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He Redefines the Power of Attorney

  • Mar 19, 2011
Star Rating:

The Lincoln Lawyer, based on the novel by Michael Connelly, weaves a gripping web of mystery and suspense, although what really impressed me was the title character, quite possibly the most interesting and unorthodox criminal defense attorney in cinema history. His name is Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey), and he does business from the backseat of his Lincoln sedan. This was initially done out of necessity – some months prior he had his license suspended because of a DUI – but is now done for the sheer luxury of it. He has a chauffeur named Earl (Laurence Mason), who was once his client and is now trying to work off his legal fees. He drives Haller up and down the streets of Los Angeles, mostly because he’s more likely to find clients there than in a law office; most of them are lowlifes who know that no other lawyer can do what he does. And they pay him handsomely for his services. He knows what he’s doing.
A bondsman named Val (John Leguizamo) comes to him with an offer for a high-profile case, which he accepts but isn’t used to. Here enters Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a wealthy Beverly Hills playboy; he has been accused of the rape and attempted murder of a prostitute (Margarita Levieva), although he adamantly asserts his innocence. As the son of powerful realtor and businesswoman (Francis Fisher), it appears to make sense that someone would stage a crime, frame him for it, and ultimately sue him for everything he’s worth. It makes even more sense considering the young lady’s profession, which she desperately wanted out of. If she were to take him to court and win, the damages would afford her the opportunity to start a new life.

Without lingering over revealing details, let’s just say that Haller notices certain similarities between this case and that of a former client, Jesus (Michael Peña), who’s serving a life sentence for murder in San Quentin with the possibility of parole in fifteen years. He has always professed his innocence – it wasn’t him, but some other guy. Still it was the best Haller could do given the circumstances. Without his help, Jesus would have gotten the death penalty. In trying to make things right, he hits a roadblock in the form of client-attorney confidentiality. It’s going to take a lot of digging, legal maneuvers, and sheer cunning in order to get to the truth. In charge of the first is his private investigator, Frank (William H. Macy), who, like Haller, is an asset to the film strictly on the basis of his unique personality.
I will describe no more of the case, but rest assured that it will ultimately wind up in a courtroom. It’s here we meet Ted Milton, the prosecution (Josh Lucas), and a man named Corliss (Shea Whigham), whose role in the case I leave to you to discover. Although the film offers nothing groundbreaking in the way of legal twists and turns, the courtroom scenes are competently staged and performed, which is to say they’re no less entertaining despite being somewhat routine. I even went along with the obligatory post-trial scenes, which is always when new details are brought to light and characters find themselves in whole different kinds of trouble. My only real criticism would be the second of three appearances by a biker gang; their actions were not only implausible, they also reflected badly on Haller, and I came dangerously close to not liking him anymore.

I came close, but I ultimately gave it up, for I couldn’t simply dismiss all the earlier scenes that made him such a fascinating character. McConaughey was the perfect choice for this role, for he shows just the right balance between slick professionalism and human frailty. Haller is good at what he does, but there are times we’re forced to wonder if it comes at too high a cost. He drinks a bit too much and was apparently a bad husband. He shares custody of his young daughter with his ex-wife, a rival attorney named Maggie (Marisa Tomei), with whom he still gets along with on a social basis. We unfortunately don’t see all that much of Tomei, but even her few scenes add greatly to the film, in large part because her character brings out the sensitivity and compassion Haller keeps on reserve.
If you grant that other legal thrillers have been made just as successfully, if you allow yourself to take in McConaughey’s engaging onscreen presence, you will be satisfied by The Lincoln Lawyer. What it lacks in originality it makes up for in pacing, performance, and style – especially when it comes to its leading man. Like Arthur Bach or Jack Sparrow, you’re unlikely to come across a character like Mickey Haller anytime in the near future. It’s always fun watching an original character working his or her magic in a conventional genre film. It also gives me hope for the future of direction and screenwriting; any filmmaker can follow a formula, but it takes skill, imagination, and guts to deliver a product that, even in the smallest of ways, defies our expectations.


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March 28, 2011
I'm hoping to see this one eventually. Very nice review!
March 28, 2011
Thanks. It's not the greatest legal thriller ever made, but for what it is, it works well.
March 28, 2011
Sounds good enough for me. I haven't been to the movies in ages. I need a break!
March 19, 2011
very thorough review
March 19, 2011
Thank you. It seems, though, we're sharply divided over Black Death.
March 19, 2011
Just shows how subjective the whole thing is. Have a great weekend.
March 19, 2011
great review. I may see one more movie this weekend but I am not sure what it'll be yet. Your reviews are helping me decide though. There is an Indie Foreign film that I have my eye on, methinks I'll go for that one since it is rare that such a film would play in my area. This sounds interesting, but I am a little jaded when it comes to legal thrillers. Thanks!
March 19, 2011
Yeah, legal thrillers are pretty common. Still, for what it is, this movie works well. Even Roger Ebert liked it.
March 28, 2011
I just saw it, I think I would've enjoyed it more if I read the book. I thought it was ok, there was just something missing and I thought the last act went overlong. Still, the performances were pretty solid and it was pretty entertaining.
March 28, 2011
It sounds like you enjoyed it less than I did. Oh well. There was a time when I believed it was necessary to read a book before seeing the film adaptation. Now, I don't think it matters. For one thing, books are not movies and movies are not books -- and by that I mean, the mediums are so different in narrative technique that it would be pointless to make comparisons. Also, if the story of a film is good, it will successfully reach you; you won't need the original novel in order to get something out of it. A personal example: I haven't read any of the Lord of the Rings books, and yet I greatly enjoyed the movies.
March 28, 2011
I agree with what you've said. I liked this one up until it started to wrap things up and tie everything together. I am not sure, I just saw a bunch of things that made it feel rushed.
March 19, 2011
Nice review. I'll wait for the DVD on this one. I'm not a big fan of McConaughey's to begin with. I see him as the male Katherine Heigl.
March 19, 2011
Katherine Heigl can be good if given the right roles.
More The Lincoln Lawyer reviews
review by . March 27, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Just Whose Side Are You Really On?
I went to “The Lincoln Lawyer” with extra low expectations. I have seen so many legal thrillers in my day that I was almost certain that this would not be anything different. The film was adapted from the novel by Michael Connelly, and I have to admit I haven’t read the book before I saw this film. The film starts off strongly, with some dynamic performances from its cast it seemed poised to go the whole nine yards. Unfortunately, the script and direction manages to over-stretch, …
review by . March 31, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I viewed "The Lincoln Lawyer" last weekend and was most pleased with the film.   The acting was well done and the lead roles played their parts well.  I felt that the movie kept close to the novel and there wasn't any major difference.  The ending of the movie was somewhat different than the novel. In the movie there is action against one of the antagonists that didn't happen in the novel.  Most of the people in the theater seemed generally …
review by . August 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
The Haller essence
Matthew McConaughey proves he's not just a pretty face in The Lincoln Lawyer. It's difficult to translate books to the silver screen, and this is no exception. Based upon the novel by John Connelly, the movie lacks the heart that enlivened the written version. It does do justice, however, to the character of Mickey Haller, a smart, fast-talking defense attorney who knows all the tricks and doesn't hesitate to play them. Kind of a conman with a conscience, if you can picture that. I wondered …
review by . July 24, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     "The Lincoln Lawyer" is a competent and well-made court-room crime drama that deserves all the respect it can get, and all the acclaim that it deserves. It might get an Oscar nomination in the Best Picture category when the Award Season returns yet again, as films such as this one usually do. It has all the qualities of an Oscar nominee; but not all of a winner. Whether the film deserves that nomination (which it will PROBABLY get) is not of my concern. What …
review by . March 31, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
In the Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller is asked to defend wealthy Louis Roulet against the charge of aggrivated assault and attempted rape of Reggie Campo. Campo was a woman who Louis met in a bar.      The acting was well done with all of the major actors doing there part well. There was less action with Mickey's former wife, Maggie who is played by Marissa Tomai? This went well but it's hard to see this actor in a courtroom drama and not think of "My Cousin Vinnie.'   …
review by . May 02, 2011
spoilers         Matthew McConaughey. I remember when he was in A Time To Kill (which I've only seen bits and pieces of) and everyone thought he was going to be the next Gregory Peck. Several godawful romantic comedies later, we all thought we were mistaken. Then, The Lincoln Lawyer comes along, and he surprises us yet again with a stellar performance in the lead role. The Lincoln Lawyer is not without its problems, but it is still an exciting and compelling legal …
review by . March 16, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   The 'Lincoln Lawyer', a  gripping legal thriller,   Matthew McConaughey stars as Michael 'Mick' Haller, a slick charismatic Los Angeles criminal defense attorney who operates out of the back of his Lincoln continental sedan.       Having spent most of his career defending petty, gutter-variey criminals, Mick unexpectedly lands the case of a lifetime:  defending a rich Beverly Hills playboy Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) who …
review by . May 03, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   Directed by Brad Furman, The Lincoln Lawyer is a surprisingly good courthouse drama supported by a strong cast and a decent story. It depicts the process of a charismatic lawyer Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey) who gets inside a case which doesn't revolve only around his defender. He's an iconic lawyer in Los Angeles dealing with various criminals and who holds connection within the city's underworld. He finds himself in a big trouble once he takes charge in defending …
review by . March 19, 2011
Get ready to be a witness to 119 minutes of a nail biting crime case saddled by Matthew McConaughey (The Ghost of Girlfriends Past, Surfer Dude), out of the backseat of a - Lincoln Continental?   McConaughey stars in The Lincoln Lawyer; as a smooth, charismatic defense attorney Michael “Mick” Haller.  He’s also an attorney who runs his business out of his black Lincoln Continental sedan, and runs it effectively.   While Mick has spent most of his career …
Quick Tip by . March 26, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Looking for a little more information on THE LINCOLN LAWYER, check out my interview with the film's star, Matthew McConaughey:      http://blacksheepreviews.blogspot.com/2011/0...interviews-matthew.html
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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