Monday, March 21, 2011

Movie Review - The Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer - ***

Directed by:  Brad Furman

Starring:  Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Bryan Cranston

Review:  I don’t imagine they will be showing ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ to aspiring students in law school any time soon.  Not that the film doesn’t contain any reality, I imagine the courtroom scenes are pretty accurate, rather, this movies finds itself dealing with the other part of law they don’t teach you in law school but you have to learn on your own on the job.  Finding ways ‘around’ the system and learning how to deal with district attorneys that are as much a victim of the system as the people hurt by those they try to put away.

Mick Haller is the guy who knows all the ins and outs of the system.  Perhaps he one day started with the idealistic mindset that most lawyers probably have but that got lost somewhere along the way.  Surely Mick wanted to truly help people at some point.  Actually, it doesn’t even seem to be about that for Mick, rather, it seems to be about the justice system working correctly.  If he couldn’t have faith in humanity, then he could have faith in the system.  Somewhere along the lines between getting the best plea deal for someone who it wasn’t apparent was guilty or innocent and constantly helping out a motorcycle gang get their best “growers” out of the clink he realized that he couldn’t have faith in the system either.  From that point it just became about working the system to his benefit.

The movie doesn’t spend the time to really explain how Mick got to this point, but that is not the point of the movie.  Through Mick’s career path he has brought himself to the point where he has quite the reputation and finds himself with a very specific clientele.  I would imagine that he works on a referral basis only, which is only confirmed when another lawyer asks him for a business card and Mick shoots him a glance as if he just asked if he cut the cheese.  In the world Mick inhabits people talk and they talk about those who can help when they get in trouble and Mick’s name often comes up.

That is how Mick is referred to Louis Roulet who has found himself incarcerated for the assault and brutal beating of woman he met at a bar.  In their first major meeting Mick gets Louis’ side of the story and immediately compares it to what was said by the victim in the police file (which his investigator, played by William H. Macy, somehow acquired).  There are some disrepencies and it’s not clear who is guilty or innocent (see a theme here?) but Mick finds himself already turning the wheels to try and find a loophole to get Louis off on.

This is what Mick’s life consists of now, finding loopholes and working the system to the best of his advantage.  He assesses the situation and tries to find the quickest way out to get on to his next payday.  There is something different about Louis’ case though.  Mick does some soul searching asking himself if he thinks Louis really is innocent.  Louis is the kind of spoiled rich kid that has been handed everything in life and doesn’t need the help that Mick can provide but wants it anyway.  Why did Louis come to him?  There is something else here that Mick has to figure out and in the process brings to question how he governs his career and holds his belief structure.

Matthew Mconaghey doesn’t play the idealistic lawyer you found in ‘A Time to Kill’ but gives a solid performance nonetheless.  As his wife Morissa Tomei does what she does best which is make the best of a limited role (and look amazing for a 45 year-old).  Mconaghey and cast don’t provide anything revelatory here but do provide the requisite amount of solid acting chops to add to the solid action and tension that mounts throughout the film. 

The plot isn’t groundbreaking but the writing is crisp, direction is clear, and acting is strong enough for this film to overcome its plot weakness and be quite an entertaining ride.  I would say it’s worth your time.

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