Monday, 21 March 2011

112: Review - The Lincoln Lawyer

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

The Lincoln Lawyer
20 March 2011. Location: Cinema

The last (and indeed first) time I watched a Matthew McConaughey movie was, I kid you not, 1996*. The film was 'A Time to Kill', based on the John Grisham courtroom thriller, which while certainly passable, did nothing to convince me that I should follow the man's work more closely. Indeed, the looks of his subsequent offerings only strengthened that idea. So, the only lasting impression in my mind of MM is as a white, middle-class lawyer. Ironic then that the first film of his to grab my attention after fifteen years has MM starring as a white, middle-class lawyer.

And you thought he was being typecast in shit romcoms...

Plot: The Lincoln Lawyer sees MM as a crooked criminal defence lawyer (with a Heart Of Gold™) working out of the back of his car (erm... yes). Although he's used to defending the obviously guilty, he's pushed onto a case that's more than he can handle, as the past comes back to bite him on the arse.

Now this one looks as if it's spent a lot of time on the edit-suite. The reason it's called The Lincoln Lawyer, is that he operates his lawyering out of the back of his Lincoln Sedan. There's a part in the trailer where his young daughter is spending the day with him in 'his office' and they're discussing that fact. But that isn't in the print of the film I saw. It's evident that he doesn't have a fixed office, but it's barely even hinted at that his car is his office. Instead of that particular line of exposition, the first hour centres on Mick Haller (MM) taking and analysing the case of a young wealthy realtor (small-eyed Ryan Phillippe) accused of GBH on a prostitute. Now there's hints from the get-go that this case is more than it's made out to be, but this doesn't begin to develop until after that hour. Then, the plot picks up pace and becomes a very enjoyable courtroom/crime thriller. It feels slightly too long for what actually happens, but I put that down to the aforementioned buildup. There's a very nice GTA-style opening sequence which hints of a smoother film than the one we get. This is why I suspect there's been a re-edit at some point, and not by the same people that originally worked on it. Although I could well be mistaken, but it just feels disjointed.

Despite what I've said about old Captain Vanilla, McConaughey's pretty good in his role; with just the right amount of combined sleaze, humility and warmth to make his character believable. The rest of the cast are also a credit, and I was genuinely shocked when one of the most interesting supporting members is killed off midway through the movie. The stakes needed to be raised, and raised they were. Plot-wise, the ending's curiously open, but we're left with the impression that all will pan out well. We're not supposed to like a bent lawyer, but it's pretty hard not to in this case. It's also worth saying that, thinking about the smaller supporting roles, there are threads which aren't tied up. They might not need to be for this story, but this isn't a 22 part TV series, and it would have been nice to get some closure on his client Gloria**, who helps him from inside prison, for example. Again, there's a feeling that some things were cut for time, which could have been avoided if the first half of the movie had been trimmed.

All in all: It's a good movie, but not necessarily 'cinema' material. You'll lose nothing by watching it at home in a few months time.


It'd have been a 6 if the first hour had been tighter (ie: forty minutes).

*I'm not counting Tropic Thunder. He was in it, but it wasn't a MM-'vehicle'. I'll be honest, I don't even remember him being there, but IMDB and RT both say he was, and that's fine.
** It's also not really explained why Gloria, a coke-addicted prostitute, has such a brilliant, high-profile defence lawyer who takes 10k bungs to get people off. Where would she find that kind of cash?

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organizations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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