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Entries in Ryan Phillippe (2)

Friday
Mar182011

The Lincoln Lawyer

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

Friday
May212010

MacGruber

Have you ever heard a joke that was so stupid, so utterly ridiculous, so shamelessly juvenile that you couldn’t help but laugh at it? Well dear reader, I present to you MacGruber, an hour and a half long example of exactly that. Arising from a short Saturday Night Live sketch as a parody of MacGyver, MacGruber is unapologetic in its crassness and determined to make you laugh, however shameful you may feel afterwards for doing so.

Breaking the confines of that damned square room where the door won’t open and an explosion is always imminent, this film takes MacGruber (Will Forte) out into the open to stop evil mastermind Dieter Von Cunth (Val Kilmer) from destroying Washington DC with a nuclear warhead. To aid him in his task, he recruits Lt. Dixon Piper (Ryan Phillippe) and Vicki St. Elmo (Kristen Wiig) who go along with his plans, no matter how absurd they may get.

MacGruber is the very definition of immature. Its humor is childish, crude, gross and maybe even a little bit homophobic. These are the types of jokes that many people would scoff at—excretory, urinary and sexual jokes to name a few—but they are delivered with such tenacity that one can’t help but find their inner child and chuckle along with it.

It’s a sporadic picture to be sure—laughs come here, laughs go there—but there are a number of times where you’ll laugh so hard you won’t be able to breathe. Unfortunately, when the jokes fail, they fail big. Due to its puerile sense of humor, the film unwisely thinks using four letter words liberally is funny. It’s not. The act of using them isn’t what brings laughs, but rather how you use them. It sometimes seemed like this movie didn’t understand that and hinged too much on assuming the audience would snicker simply because they were there.

If you check IMDb before heading into the movie, you’ll expect this given the names of the characters (Cunth is usually pronounced with a silent “H”), but what’s really disappointing is that MacGruber is ripe for parody. Outside of the title, however, it rarely capitalizes on it. Instead, it felt like the filmmakers watched every action movie of the last thirty years and then simply mimicked them by plopping their character into similar situations. For instance, MacGruber has gone into retirement at the beginning of the picture and the government is begging him to help one last time. Great, but where’s the joke there? Simply recreating the formula of an action movie isn’t enough. You have to do something with it.

“Smart” is a word that will never be used to describe it, but MacGruber is fun to watch and the performances are fantastic. The writing is all over the place (let’s face it, a 13 year old could write this thing), but it’s the delivery that makes it work. Will Forte is excellent in the title role, Kristen Wiig is delightful as usual and Val Kilmer revives his career with spot on comedic timing.

Hesitance is understandable given the poor track record of Saturday Night Live movies, and it doesn’t even come close to reaching the greatness of Wayne’s World or The Blues Brothers, but MacGruber is a step in the right direction and finds itself on the positive end of that short list.

MacGruber receives 3/5