Monday, April 11, 2011
The Lincoln Lawyer
The breezy flick starts off as an amusing character study, chronicling the day-to-day dealings of Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey, having a blast), a streetwise lawyer who has no qualms about working the cracks in the system to get his clients freed.
During the first 20 minutes of the film, we follow Haller around for a day – getting a drug pusher released here, jetting across town to get a motorcycle thug exonerated there, and so on. We meet a slew of characters, and aren’t yet bogged down but that sinking element that tends to ruin most Hollywood films: the plot.
And here’s where The Lincoln Lawyer (sort of) goes amiss. You see, those first 20 minutes are cool and fun because they don’t have anything to do with the rest of the movie. They’re just great introductory moments for what could be a really groovy character. And then, slowly but surely, we realize that everything we’ve seen was in no way character based, but rather given to us simply to serve the eventual muddled plot.
Simply put: everyone you see and everything you hear will come up later, simply to bow tie the conclusion of the film. This does several things. It makes the movie too neat, it takes the mystery out of the story, and it makes you feel like you’re watching a glorified cop procedural on TNT.
Look, The Lincoln Lawyer isn’t that bad of a film, in fact, it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen so far this year. And, for what it’s worth, McConaughey is actually quite good in it. But when his character takes on a rich boy client (Ryan Phillippe) who may or may not have beaten a hooker halfway to hell, it doesn’t take long for predictability to play out.
For a flick that starts off so well, it’s a bit of a bummer to watch it continuously bite off more than it can chew. And given the film’s modest box office take, maybe audiences agree with the notion that they’re ready to be thrown something a little more challenging. You don’t have to spell everything out for us; we ain’t as dumb as you think. B-
(Side note: There is an absolutely hilarious scene in this film where McConaughey interrogates a jailhouse snitch on the stand. The snitch is played by remarkable character actor Shea Whingham, who was brilliantly zany in his brief role in Bad Lieutenant last year, and can currently be seen as Steve Buscemi’s brother on Boardwalk Empire. Whingham is in three scenes in The Lincoln Laywer, and he steals every second of them. He’s worth the price of admission.)