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First of all, don't worry about why it's called The Lincoln Lawyer, or why Matthew McConaughey's character works out of the backseat of a car instead of an office like a normal attorney. Adapted from Michael Connelly's courtroom novel for maximum efficiency and charm, The Lincoln Lawyer boasts such an energetic pace and delightful cast that it doesn't bother with these details that don't matter, and neither should you.
In fact, there's not much to be bothered by at all in the movie, which follows McConaughey's cue and coasts along effortlessly through a tangled legal story that's just a notch or two more complex than a given Law & Order episode. McConaughey is the definition of a movie star here, sitting back and allowing his charm to imbue the entire film, not to mention getting a visible thrill from working alongside a cast that includes Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy, Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo and Josh Lucas. His character Mickey Haller, a slick and morally dubious attorney who specializes in representing lowlifes, requires a tricky balance of actual charm and sleaze, and McConaughey hits it perfectly without seeming to lift a finger. It's not just that he's back after years and years of dreadful rom-coms; now in his 40s and maybe a little less inclined to remove his shirt, he may be entirely reborn.
It's especially fun that McConaughey spends so much of the film facing off against Ryan Phillippe and Lucas, two fellow blonds who seemed to enter Hollywood to replace him but never quite stacked up-- and whose characters can never get Mickey, either. Phillippe plays Louis Roulet, a petulant rich boy accused of beating up a prostitute and specifically requesting to be represented by Mickey, a guy much more accustomed to working with more unsavory types. It doesn't take long for Mickey to smell a rat, and even as he's trying to defend Louis against the smarmy district attorney (Lucas, a pretty wonderful adversary) he's looking into that likelihood that Louis committed this crime and another one for which Mickey watched a different client (Michael Pena) go to jail. With the help of his investigator pal (Macy) and even his ex-wife who's also a lawyer (Tomei), Mickey digs deeper into the case and starts suspecting he's in danger from his own unpredictable client.
Director Brad Furman tries a little too hard to jazz up the action with color filters and handheld camera and an admittedly great soundtrack, but he also has the good sense to let his actors loose with one another, getting good stuff even out of Cranston and Leguizamo in miniscule roles. John Romano's script squanders a few moments of tension that could have worked better, and saddles Macy especially with some howlingly bad lines, but for the most part does well by sticking with the classic genre format. It's a movie that doesn't ask much of you, but simply by presenting so many entertaining actors in one place and a decent enough story to follow along, offers a lot all the same.