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Thursday, March 24, 2011 04:57 am

The Lincoln Lawyer presents a solid case

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Matthew McConaughey stars as Mickey Haller in The Lincoln Lawyer.

Like many others, I am a sucker for a good courtroom drama. While Brad Furman’s The Lincoln Lawyer will never be accused of being a classic of the genre, it’s good enough to tide us over until the next Anatomy of a Murder hits the big screen. This adaptation of the Michael Connelly potboiler has twists aplenty as well as a dynamic performance from lead Matthew McConaughey who reminds us here of how effective he can be when he tackles a script with a bit of meat to it.

He’s Mick Haller, a young hotshot attorney who takes on a case that starts off looking like a rainmaker. Spoiled rich kid Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) is charged with brutally beating a prostitute, an incident he says was a setup so he could be extorted. It appears to Haller that this may be the case, but soon a wrinkle is dug up by his investigator (William H. Macy) and before you know it, what appeared to be a slam dunk winds up becoming so complex and sordid that the attorney’s law license and family are put in jeopardy.

John Romano’s script effectively provides all of the necessary components so that last-minute reversals and surprise witnesses can be introduced logically, both of which are needed to untangle this intriguing and complex mystery. While Furman does a fine job dispensing the story’s many plot points in a rapid but easy-to-follow manner, his jittery camera does the film no favors. The fact that there are maybe one or two too many loose ends to clean up at the end causes it to nearly overstay its welcome.

Still, Furman has assembled a solid cast that really knows how to sell soap. Marisa Tomei as Haller’s ex is sexy, sassy and smart, while Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, and Bryan Cranston all shine in their respective roles. But Phillippe and McConaughey carry the load, and the antagonistic chemistry they generate is a hoot to watch. While the former has never realized his potential on screen, the latter has often squandered it. Yet, Phillippe is so convincing, his career may get a second wind if he opts to play more heavies, while it’s good to see McConaughey not relying on his charm alone. Like these two, Lawyer provides the audience with more than enough surprises to keep them entertained.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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