The Lincoln Lawyer
DVD | Blu-Ray
Directed by Brad Furman
Based on the novel by Michael Connelly
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, Josh Lucas, Bryan Cranston, Margarita Levieva, Trace Adkins, John Leguizamo, William H. Macy, Frances Fisher, and Laurence Mason
Originally Released: March 18, 2011
The Lincoln Lawyer is a surprisingly enjoyable ride, bearing in mind it was promoted as a courtroom drama. In fact, the Brad Furman film, based on the novel written by Michael Connelly, is much more than that – combining elements of crime films and thrillers, The Lincoln Lawyer hurriedly becomes a deeply strategic movie that demands your attention from start to finish, with excellent performances from the all-star cast.
The tale focuses on a criminal defense attorney, Mickey Haller played by Matthew McConaughey (in perhaps one of his finest roles caught on film), who takes on a case involving Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe). Roulet is accused of beating a prostitute named Reggie Campo (Margarita Levieva), though he claims he is innocent of the crime.
The movie begins with a wonderful set of sequences highlighting the busy lifestyle of Haller as a lawyer as he conducts his business not from an office or home, but from his Lincoln Town Car (hence the name of the film). This leads up to him accepting the Roulet defense case, but what starts as what seems to be a straight-forward defense court case, instead turns into something completely unexpected; and quickly unravels into a deep strategic chess-like game of life and death, with the tale moving away from “whodunit” and moving forwards into what possibly could happen next.
The scriptwriting, I’m told, is fairly faithful to the original novel – and on screen, is a fantastic example of solid story writing. Very few elements are left unused; and everything that appears in the movie has some form of pay-off, although sometimes in the least expected form possible. The tensions of the sequencing of events make for some unexpected and unpredictable moments, reaching a highly entertaining climax, with perhaps one of the greatest and satisfying conclusions I’ve seen in a movie for quite some time. The writing style has inspired me to dig up more of Connelly’s written works for future reading.
Matthew McConaughey is electrifying and slick in his role as lawyer Mickey Haller – quite literally a role he was born to play. He commands the attention of the audience, with a classy technique using his mannerisms to express his thoughts without words, and throughout his agitated and emotional moments throughout the film. And yet, the opposite is the case in the majority of the court scenes, where his game-face does not betray the deeper concerns as he continues to tumble deeper into the rabbit hole. As the lead man, he owns the show.
The supporting cast is just as splendid. William H. Macy is excellent, in a role completely different for him, as private investigator Frank Levin. Like McConaughey, he steps into the film already deep within the character, nicely giving the feeling of a convoluted history between the two. Bryan Cranston‘s appearances were a delightful surprise as well, playing a role completely far removed from the Breaking Bad and Malcolm In The Middle roles he is known for – and somehow mastering to bring forth a wide range of impressions of his character considering the few scenes he was in.
Ryan Phillipe likewise does well in his role. I can’t say I’ve been a huge fan of his, but in the context of The Lincoln Lawyer, he does quite an exceptional job, and is clearly further developing his craft. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can achieve in future film roles after his efforts in this one. John Leguizamo also appears in several scenes, and has some notable moments during the movie; though I do wish we could have seen more of his complicated professional relationship with our lead character. Also worth mentioning are great performances by Josh Lucas and Trace Adkins, as well as Frances Fisher and Laurence Mason. So many outstanding performances from a fantastic cast.
Production-wise, The Lincoln Lawyer comes across flawlessly. The camera work is good and stands out during the courtroom scenes, in which the color palette and lighting drastically change to reveal our main character’s reverence for his profession. There are numerous set motifs that resemble chessboards if you look closely enough, a nice physical manifestation of the deeper life/death strategy game that the film is entirely about. The music and soundtrack are also good, with some diverse selections made that completely suit McConaughey’s character and identity as The Lincoln Lawyer.
While I write this review, I am finding it hard to express any negative criticisms of this movie. It was an absolute delight to watch, with no slow moments. The emotional sequences demand your attention, and it’s magnificent to see a movie with no elements left unused in the plot. Quite simply, The Lincoln Lawyer is a must-see, and I highly recommend you add it to the top of your instant queue as soon as possible.
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5