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The Lincoln Lawyer (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Run time 119 minutes.

OK for children.

Matthew McConaughey finally gets a chance to act in an entertaining thriller and contribute more than a good smile and bare chest. Playing Mick Haller, a criminal defense attorney who works out of the back of his Lincoln Continental, he gets a chance to defend someone other than the guttersnipe criminals he’s had as clients to date. Louis Roulet, (Ryan Phillippe) is a rich man’s son accused of brutally killing a prostitute. Mick soon finds that there’s more to meet the eye here, and is placed in the position of defending a man who is manipulating him.

The film has a terrific cast. In addition to the two principals, McConaughey and Phillippe, it includes Oscar®-winner Marisa Tomei and Oscar®-nominee William H. Macy (who plays a scruffy, long-haired P.I.), although both have minor roles which minimizes and wastes their exceptional talents.

There are also some fine supporting performances. One that stands out is Bryan Cranston, who is a hard-boiled homicide detective who doesn’t like Mick and seems out to get him. Josh Lucas plays Mick’s legal opponent, prosecutor Ted Minton. Lucas was dealt a bad hand here because his character could have been much more aggressive. That seems to be more a fault of the script (John Romano) and the direction (Brad Furman) than Lucas. In addition, the film shows a judge (Reggie Baker) who is scrupulously fair. Anybody who has had the misfortune to have to appear in Los Angeles Superior Court will find this portrayal fantasy.

Most of Connelly’s books are set in Los Angeles, which figures because before becoming a world-famous novelist, he was a criminal beat writer for a local newspaper. As a result there are scenes of the various aspects of the city, from the Trump Golf Course in Palos Verdes, with its spectacular panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, to gritty Inglewood. McConaughey says, “This is not the sunny, ritzy L.A. that we’re showing. It’s hot, humid, dusty, dirty, and sometimes trashy.”

Although Connelly was apparently satisfied with the script, even though this is a fine, entertaining movie, I didn’t think it was a good as the book.

March 17, 2011