Throughout the years, Matthew McConaughey has made a name for himself, though the name isn't one he should be proud of. He has become “the romantic comedy guy,” starring in such films as Failure to Launch, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Fool’s Gold and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, all of which, for all intents and purposes, are awful (yes, even the last one). He has become the laughing stock of critics around the country, to the point where my colleagues and I, before each of his movies, make a bet as to how many times he will take his shirt off. But if he keeps doing movies like The Lincoln Lawyer, he may turn that around. It’s his first legal thriller since 1996’s A Time to Kill, which, coincidentally, is the last time he made a good movie and while this isn’t quite as good as that film, it’s definitely worth seeing.
McConaughey plays Mick Haller, a smooth talking lawyer who seemingly always finds a way to win. He’s generally disliked among the law community for representing scumbags who probably shouldn’t be on the street, but he doesn’t care as long as he gets paid. His next client, wealthy playboy Louis Roulet, played by Ryan Phillippe, who personally asked for his assistance, is now under investigation for attempted murder and the brutal beating of a prostitute. However, he claims he was set up and that she’s only after a chunk of his change. Along with his investigator, Frank, played by William H. Macy, Mick begins to put his case together and discovers that somebody isn’t telling the truth.
As is to be expected, The Lincoln Lawyer, for much of its runtime, speaks in legal mumbo jumbo. It’s a language I don’t fully understand, but the film never bogs itself down in it and manages to be easily understandable even to those without law degrees. It uses those words because it has to due to the nature of the story and, even though the direct meaning of some of them flew over my head, the context of the sentence defined them for me. Not once was I lost watching the movie. Conversely, I was intrigued until the very end. Once you’ve invested yourself in this story, it’s impossible not to be.
Unfortunately, the path to that end is a bit bumpy. While not excessive, The Lincoln Lawyer is plagued with awkward cuts and a number of dramatic miscues. From a random post sex explosion of anger from his ex-wife and colleague to an abrupt and sudden cut where Mick goes from pinning a character against a wall to sitting at a bar with a drink, the movie repeatedly makes questionable decisions.
This is most evident in the back half of the picture when the actual trial takes place. While I’m no lawyer and can’t speak from experience, the court proceedings seem uncouth and exaggerated for dramatic effect, full of sustained stares and long, exhaustive monologues from characters at the stand. Although much of it is intentional, these scenes become comedic, a stark contrast to the preceding hour that highlighted murder, alcoholism and more. In a courtroom drama, you expect the courtroom scenes to be the most gripping parts of the movie, but because of these problems, they are instead the most inauthentic.
Nevertheless, The Lincoln Lawyer is a solid movie and it’s carried by a powerhouse performance from Matthew McConaughey. He hasn’t put this much vigor and passion into a role in quite some time and he has proven himself as more than the joke many have made him out to be.
The Lincoln Lawyer receives 3.5/5