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March 16, 2018

The Lincoln Lawyer

by Franz Patrick


Lincoln Lawyer, The (2011)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) is known for defending scums of Los Angeles and has made many connections and resources that one way or another help him to win cases. When thirty-two-year-old Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) is taken to jail for allegedly assaulting a woman in her own home, Haller jumps at the opportunity to represent him because the family is rich and therefore profitable. However, the case is not as smooth sailing as Haller expected it to be when he learns that his client may have committed a similar crime prior.

“The Lincoln Lawyer,” based on the novel of the same name by Michael Connelly, reminded me of movies in the ’70s where men of certain professions who think they have it good, sometimes at the expense of others, are suddenly thrown into an emotional and psychological blender. And since the pressure is too much, they begin to wonder the value of their services and seriously consider if it is worth it to keep walking on the same path.

The film will appeal to those with interest in character studies. Right from the opening scene we are shown that Haller is slick, a smooth talker, and is highly intelligent—someone who you would want to be represented by if you got into serious trouble. He may not be the most sensitive guy in room but he knows how to get the job done and make it look effortless. McConaughey is so believable as an ace defense lawyer, I forgot that I was watching him until the inevitable bedroom scene in which he is required to take his shirt off.

The courtroom scenes command a silent intensity. There is no score that is meant to highlight game-changing revelations. Meaningful silences are kept at a minimum. The sense of humor is subtle and graceful. We wonder which direction the case is going to go.

A weakness of the picture is the push-and-pull between the former spouses. While Marisa Tomei can carry the clothes and the attitude of a lawyer, Maggie McPherson is not written as a whole person, someone who is formidable or daring enough to have married Haller in the first place. There is this phony conflict about McPherson feeling frustrated that her ex-husband works to keep bad guys from jail and she wanting to put them inside. It is ludicrous because she should have known that that comes with Haller’s job prior to marrying him in the first place. If she did not have a problem with in the past, why make a fuss about it now? The conflict feels superficial and contrived.

Nonetheless, “The Lincoln Lawyer,” based on the screenplay by John Romano and directed by Brad Furman, is well-acted and engaging. The supporting actors, particularly William H. Macy and Josh Lucas, fit their roles so well. Best of all, though it is a drama in its core with surrounding thriller elements, it entertains because it urges one to think about some of the rules behind attorney-client confidentiality and how it can be perverted to one’s advantage.

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