McConaughey has usual swagger as 'Lincoln Lawyer'
Director Brad Furman's film, which John Romano wrote based on the Michael Connelly novel, has the slick, disposable feel of the sort of legal drama you could find any night of the week on primetime TV. From the opening titles and underdeveloped characters to the quick pacing and flat lighting, 'The Lincoln Lawyer' seems insubstantial, recycled and forgettable.
Now, this may sound vaguely familiar to you. If so, please bear with us. McConaughey plays Mick Haller, a cocky, sleazy defense attorney who thinks he's got it all figured out. He woos the women -- including his prosecutor ex-wife and the mother of his daughter, played by Marisa Tomei -- banters comfortably with biker gangs and generally weasels his way out of every tricky situation.
The swagger was far more charming when McConaughey played a lawyer 15 years ago in 'A Time to Kill', which is still the best adaptation of a John Grisham novel. The main difference between this role and most others he has played since then is he manages to keep his shirt on, for the most part.
But, because this is a McConaughey movie, his character will have his comeuppance, and it comes in the form of a high-profile case. Beverly Hills real estate heir Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) is accused in the rape and attempted murder of a prostitute. His expensively dressed mother (Frances Fisher) feels comfortable that Mick is the right man to defend her son, and not her company's esteemed, longtime legal counsel.
Besides, Louis insists he's innocent, so it should be no problem. But this pretty boy is, naturally, more dangerous than he looks. Despite the many twists and turns and double-crosses, Mick actually ends up learning nothing and has no arc -- he's just as unctuous at the end as he was in the beginning. The only time he appears to lose control is when he gets hammered at the local watering hole where everyone else gathers to get hammered -- and those moments seem so incongruent with who he is, they make no sense.
Among the strong but woefully underused supporting cast are William H. Macy as Mick's best friend, a private investigator; Bryan Cranston as a homicide detective whose screen time looks suspiciously truncated; and Michael Pena as a former client of Mick's whose case will become crucial later on. McConaughey and Phillippe have a decent back-and-forth in a couple of scenes -- at least until Phillippe turns into a villainous cartoon character.