The Lincoln Lawyer
Directed by Brad Furman. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, John Leguizamo, Josh Lucas, Laurence Mason, Michael Peña. (2011, R, 119 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., March 25, 2011
This legal thriller, adapted from the bestselling book by Michael Connelly, takes its name from the Lincoln Town Car that criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller (McConaughey) uses for both transport and office purposes. It's a clever, if not fully tapped premise (we see very little actual lawyering in the Lincoln), and from the look of it, the car is one sweet ride. But I fear for its air conditioning. Is it on the fritz? Why else would McConaughey be covered in a thin sheen of sweat from the film's start to finish? Has he considered switching deodorants? The sweat may just be misdirection, to give us the impression that McConaughey, in a rare dramatic performance, is working very hard to portray the fast-talking, perma-liquored Haller, who never met a crook he wouldn't defend for the right dollar amount. But the actor makes it look easy. He isn't carting out anything we haven't seen before – that killer smile, the long drawl, his singular mix of recklessness and righteousness – but he deploys them with far more finesse and less, well, noxiousness than in his recent failed course work in romantic comedy (Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Failure to Launch). The Lincoln Lawyer isn't as interesting as it ought to be – it raises the question of pure evil, then hardly pokes a stick at it – but it's well-cast and well-shot, its color palette dominated by California's smog-sick, fervid yellows, and its beat informed by Seventies California soul (including a remix of Marlena Shaw's cover of, natch, "California Soul"). That, too, may be misdirection: The Lincoln Lawyer has very little soul to speak of, but it's got swagger to burn.