Sunday, 20 March 2011

'The Lincoln Lawyer' Review

'The Lincoln Lawyer' (dir: Brad Furman, 2011), Cert 15

I think it’s fair to say that I’m not the only one who approaches a Matthew McConaughey film with caution. His filmography has taught audiences that is name is quite often attached to terrible movies so it’s natural to feel  bit suspect, especially with his latest picture, ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ which sees him return to the courtroom and to a serious role which is something he hasn’t done in an awfully long time. The film also stars Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe and William H. Macy.
Mick Haller (McConaughey) is a lawyer working in Beverly Hills. He works from the back of his Lincoln town car and deals with the ‘scum’ and ‘low-lives’ that no other lawyers want to represent. Haller dances on the line of the law; he makes deals with the wrong people and his happy to play Devil’s Advocate with his clients and with the justice system. Haller is approached by Louis Roulet (Phillippe); a young Hollywood playboy whose been arrested on suspicion of a vicious assault and the attempted rape of a young woman. Roulet is desperate to clear his name and he knows Haller is the man for the job, but as the case begins to unfold, it’s seems that foul play has taken place and not everything is as it seems.
 Law and courtroom dramas are a hard thing to pull off; they have to be engaging enough to keep the audience wrapped up in the narrative, but have to steer clear of using too much ‘jargon’ so everybody can enjoy and understand the picture. ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ succeeds on both of these accounts. It’s a perfectly simple drama that doesn’t ask too much of it’s viewers, but also doesn’t treat them like idiots. This doesn’t have the same emotional or dramatic impact as ‘A Time to Kill’ (1996 – McConaughey’s other courtroom picture and his finest hour) but it never really tries to. In fact this film has scatters of comedy across its reasonable gritty subject matter and McConaughey’s lawyer is more of a cheesy smooth guy than a liberal and full-frontal man of law. This film never takes itself too seriously and it works in its favour because overall this is a pretty decent picture.
Still from 'The Lincoln Lawyer' (dir: Brad Furman, 2011)
 The movie has many good attributes; it’s pacing is nicely timed and précised, nothing ever really dwells or gets dragged out. The courtroom sequences are very good and the dialogue is crisp and effective, the soundtrack is nostalgic with a mix of 90s Hip-Hop and Rock, and the film sports one of the best opening titles sequences of 2011 so far. The film has a couple of problems too though; at points it’s very clear that it was adapted from a novel which can be a little distracting and some of the film’s supporting cast are massively underused; I would have loved to have seen a bit more of Marisa Tomei whose always great and more from John Leguizamo and Bryan Cranston, but these are fairly minor issues for what was a surprising enjoyable and exciting film.
 The casting and performances are very good and equally solid; McConaughey is the perfect casting for Haller and thankfully he’s not annoying to watch. It’s nice to see that he can drop the whole ‘Surfing Super-Abs’ rubbish and actually perform; I just wish he did this more often. As I previously mentioned, Tomei is fantastic and plays her role of Maggie (Haller’s ex-wife) extremely competently. She and McConaughey have charming and gentle chemistry together which was refreshing. It’s nice to see a screen divorced couple who are actually civilized. Phillippe is good as Roulet but he didn’t have to try too hard with this role. It’s pretty basic territory for him and he knows how to play rather ‘nasty’ people well, and H. Macy is great as Frank Levin; Haller’s right-hand man and detective.
 ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ is not a groundbreaking law feature, but it’s an intelligent and intriguing picture with great performances and sure-footed direction, and it’s certainly worthy of your time.

Quick-fire pacing, excellent performances and snappy dialogue blended with a courtroom make this film exciting, interesting and above all, entertaining.
By Chris Haydon

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