"31 Movies, 31 Days": #10 The Lincoln Lawyer
Movie: The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)
Budget: $40 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Format: Blu-Ray DVD
The Lincoln Lawyer, starring Matthew McConaughey in the titular role as a criminal defense attorney who offices out of his car, is very much a throwback to the lawyer/investigation thrillers that were so prevalent in the late 80s and early 90s. Whether that's a good thing or not is debatable. Some of those movies, like True Believer starring James Woods, were thoroughly entertaining, even with their over-the-top courtroom theatrics. But most of them, even ones that were well reviewed at the time--like The Jagged Edge, for one---were just popcorn-munching whodunits designed to titillate and to scare. There's nothing wrong that, of course, but I prefer my lawyer films to be a bit more substantial when it comes to the actual lawyering. The Lincoln Lawyer begins with the promise of being one such film, but a ridiculous third act sinks it into the also-ran category.
McConaughey is likable and cool, his character being the archetype for such films: rebellious, slick, willing to bend the rules, unflappable. Everybody likes a cool lawyer, right? He's aided by his cop-turned-hippy investigator, played nicely by W.H. Macy. Together, McConaughey and Macy are hired to defend a rich client against sexual assault charges. Ryan Phillipe does a good job playing the spoiled and entitled rich kid, but we've seen this character a dozen times before. The twists and turns are neither surprising nor believable, but they are at least somewhat fun to arrive at. The real problem with The Lincoln Lawyer is just how jarringly stupid it gets about halfway through the movie. Characters do things that make no sense, and the resolution is akin to something you'd expect to see in a made for TV movie.
Based on a series of books by Michael Connelly, I'd not be opposed to seeing McConaughey reprise this role---so long as the story is stronger next time. Roger Ebert liked The Lincoln Lawyer a bit better than I did (3 out of 4 stars), but this quote from his review essentially captures my thoughts: "The plotting seems like half-realized stabs in various directions made familiar by other crime stories. But for what it is, The Lincoln Lawyer is workmanlike, engagingly acted and entertaining." Yeah, what he said. Just less so.
Kraig's Rating: 6/10
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