Monday, March 21, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer

I really want to begin this review with the oft cliché joke about Matthew McConaughey’s seemingly inability to appreciate the art of wearing a t-shirt. But, frankly, if I had those abs, I would parade them like it was New Years. So I can’t complain.

Thank God those abs don’t make an official appearance in The Lincoln Lawyer. Based on the novel by Michael Connelly, The Lincoln Lawyer revolves around a lawyer named Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) who works from his car, a Lincoln town car. One day, a rape and assault charge on an alter boy playboy named Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) brings an unwelcome amount of complexity to a seemingly open and shut case.

The biggest potential threat to the film was Matthew McConaughey. I say this with respect towards his past several starring roles, which have been predominantly romantic in nature and I suspected that this trend would continue. Thankfully, I was wrong. Mr. McConaughey carries the film with charisma and ease, giving us a complex look at a seemingly simple shady lawyer. From the very first frame, we think we have Mick Haller all figured out—that is, until we see him outside the courtroom. In private, he drinks to excess and shows glimmers of a lost conscience. The heart and soul of the film resides in him, and he carries it professionally and finds revival.

The biggest compliment I can give the film is that, despite a meager ending, the screenplay briskly carries itself with wit and purpose. Each scene reveals something new, the beats are concise and personal, traces of information streaming in with each passing moment. Couple this with solid acting all around (William F. Macy in a superb yet underused role) and you have two of my usual cinematic gripes already taken care of.

The very theme of defending potentially murderous people is a cliché as old as calling a film contrivance a cliché, but what The Lincoln Lawyer does is something else entirely different—instead of relying on said cliché, it brings forth a fascinating question. “How does a man with something to lose represent a potential criminal, and do so convincingly and without betrayal?” My complaint in regards to the question is that the film is content merely to provide a question without any sort of exploration.

This may seem like another pet peeve, but I relish these sorts of moments in art when you have real characters visibly grappling with something that is monumental and potentially deadly to all involved. To see such an interesting idea exposed and not dealt with did put a damper on my enthusiasm.

Beyond the brisk pacing, stellar acting and solid screenplay, the biggest disappointment for me was the ending. Bringing in several unnecessary twists as to “resolve” everything in fact made everything so neat and tidy that I lost interest ten minutes before the film ended. Thus, the final ten minutes were boring and uninformative. Ending on a higher note earlier would greatly reduce this problem and be more consistent with the established pace of the film. With all said and done, what was I saying about Matthew abs? Oh, right. Happy New Year’s

--Nick

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