What is there to say about The Lincoln Lawyer that hasn’t already been said?
As one of those movies that seems to pop up without telling anybody, The Lincoln Lawyer's mere existence is intriguing. For a long time I thought it was a period piece, and then I thought it was about a Lincoln-esque visionary lawyer. Only later did I find out its namesake comes from the lawyer working out of his car -- and that got me interested. Not enough to see it, but it curious nonetheless. Pair that with Matthew McConaughey’s return to drama and a good dose of John Grisham '90s movie nostalgia -- okay, well not pure Grisham but the weaker cut version of Grisham. The street name is “Michael Connelly.” Wait, that doesn’t even taste like “Grisham.” I think this guy gave me some bad shit. I gotta stop getting my legal thrillers from the park. With an opening that looks like it was cut on iMovie, I was actually getting kind of excited about The Lincoln Lawyer. I can’t explain it. I guess I was expecting something more grown-up. Then the names in the cast came up: Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, and Bryan Cranston -- is this movie actually going to be good? “Hot dog!” I thought to myself.
We’re immediately introduced to McConaughey’s character, Mickey Haller, doing his lawyering from the back of a Lincoln. Driving him around is the coolest-looking hepcat in the world, who’s working off his legal fees. I did not catch this factoid in the movie but Wikipedia cracked the case. Then bikers surround them. They actually look authentic, too. Sometimes movie bikers seem to be played by the same three people, but there are some new bearded faces here. But hold on, they want something from McConaughey. Let’s see if he can get out of this one! Okay, wait, they’re cool, they’re clients. Man, this lawyer is connected to bikers! He’s so cool. He’s just like Veronica Mars. It’d be cool if, just like Veronica Mars, he uses these bikers as muscle when things get heavy. But that’d never happen; this isn’t Veronica Mars. Just kidding! He does! It is Veronica Mars! Where’s his cool dad?
Bikers and backup aside, the plot kicks in and the big client is Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a pissy rich guy who is adamant that he did not beat up a prostitute. Mickey Haller takes case. The particulars of this crime aren’t super important yet, and we instead have to see how Mickey can throw back a beer with his comic-book-named ex, Maggie McPherson (Tomei), and longtime buddy/investigator, Frank Levin (Macy). Back at his apartment, Haller does that thing that happens in movies where he looks a photograph of the victim and then a light bulb goes off and he remembers a case which also involved a photograph of an attacked prostitute. Are they connected? Put on your thoughtful southern McConaughey accent and say, “Mmmmmaybe.” This next part is important: later, in the courthouse, he catches some mean talk from a detective who has nothing to do with anything other than guilting Haller for defending defendants. Why is this scene here, you may ask -- this you can do either with or without the accent.
The real story gets going when Haller suspects that his client may not be what he seems, but even so, the letter of the law says he’s still expected to continue functioning as an attorney. Haller's investigation ends in someone close to him being attacked, and the suspicion against Roulet is raised even higher -- but is it warranted? Regardless, Haller's mind has already entered into a game of Street Smarts v. Legal System, and Lincoln Lawyer-branded justice will be served. Incidentally, and I mean that in every sense of the word, Bryan Cranston shows up as yet another detective who does nothing of significance. “Why is he here?” I ask the jury of his peers who are also in this movie.
The final problem is that the courtroom drama part of this legal thriller is tepid at best. There’s a scene where all the cast members I’ve mentioned, including both detectives and Tomei -- who is inexplicably wearing an outfit from the '70s -- take seats in the courtroom, using all the cinema language available to say, “There’s something up the lawyer’s sleeve!” But what’s up the sleeve is like a four of clubs.
It’s hard out there for a legal thriller. Between the films and TV shows, many of the twists and turns have already been tapped. At least The Lincoln Lawyer has its own titular rap song for the credits. But don’t worry -- it’s not “album-only” on Amazon. This Blu-ray combo package is actually an interesting offering, though I’m not sure for whom. The movie looks and sounds great but it’s not a “showcase” kind of film, so the special features are its real opportunity to stand out. There’s a fine "making-of" and two segments with the novel’s author, Michael Connelly. In one he takes you around L.A. and talks about his inspiration for the characters, and in the other he as a chemistry-free interview -- not conversation -- with Matthew McConaughey. It’s informative if not extremely dry.
Surprisingly, the deleted scenes are good! I was all ready to give up on the concept of “deleted scenes,” but these little nuggets are fully mastered and the content actually adds to the characters. They even address some of my issues with the movie, like making it clear that his office is the Lincoln. I know that probably sounds sarcastic but I mean it.
The combo pack also has a DVD copy of the film if you want to watch it in your fancy car.
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