Monday, November 7, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer

Directed by Brad Furman.
2011. Rated R, 118 minutes.
Cast:
Matthew McConaughey
Marisa Tomei
Ryan Phillippe
William H. Macy
Frances Fisher
Josh Lucas
John Leguizamo
Michael Pena
Bob Gunton
Laurence Mason
Trace Adkins

Bryan Cranston

Mick (McConaughey) is a defense attorney with a street hustler’s swag. He uses the backseat of his Lincoln for an office. His big break seems to have come when he’s hand-picked by real estate empire heir Louis Roulet (Phillippe) to defend him in against sexual assault charges. The girl he allegedly assaulted is a prostitute. There is video evidence of her approaching him at a bar nad offering her services. This should be a walk in the park for a savvy guy like Mick, right? You should already know things are never that easy. Soon, our hero comes to the realization that his client might be guilty and even has ulterior motives beyond getting acquitted.

Though our protagonist is a lawyer, this is no courtroom drama. This is a procedural. We watch Mick prepare for the case. We also watch him agonize over the mess he’s gotten himself into and try to strategize his way out. Even with very little in terms of action, it’s riveting stuff. It’s a sharply written tale that refuses to be a mystery. It’s not at all a whodunit. We know precisely who did. Still, there are several questions. What’s our hero going to do about this? How does he do the right thing without breaking any rules himself? Is that even possible? Most importantly, if it’s possible will it work?

Also in the mix is the on again, off again romance between Mick and prosecutor Maggie (Tomei). She gladly passes this case along once she finds out that Mick is on the other side. However, there is one cas she can’t pass on. They have a daughter together. She has custody while Mick usually gets her on Saturdays. Once in a while they’ll all go for ice cream together. Mom and dad refuse to be a traditional family, though. Apparently, they’ve already tried with disasterous results, save for the birth of their little girl. For them, the occasional night of passion will do. Don’t worry, this will eventually figure into the case.

Matthew McConaughey is unquestionably the star of the show. He lights up the screen with a performance that sizzles. It’s one of his best and a jolting reminder of what he can do when he’s not constantly forcing his pretty smile on us in some lame rom-com or pretending to be an action hero. He takes material that’s already good and makes it even better. There is certainly some excellent talent in the cast. They all turn in solid work. However, they’re really just along for the ride he’s taking us on. It is a very fun ride with just a bit of a twist at the end.

MY SCORE: 8/10

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