Movie Review: The Lincoln Lawyer

Well, it’s that time of year again.  A time when extraneous activities fall to the wayside in favor of outline-making and flash cards; when grocery shopping and good hygiene drop to the bottom of your to-do list; when laughter gives way to quiet sobs in the LRC.  But finals time doesn’t have to be all pain, no gain.

In fact, four out of five lawyers agree that, when you study hard, it’s okay (if not necessary) to let off some steam so that you don’t end up on the edge of Coronado Bridge, one case brief away from jumping.

Whether you’re like me, and will find any reason to leave the library, or if the idea of taking a break makes you sweaty and anxious, there’s a good solution for the whole family—Legal Movie Night!

The Lincoln Lawyer, in theaters now, is a thrilling courtroom drama that conveniently incorporates just enough legal jargon to trick your brain into thinking it’s not only enjoyable, but also productive.  Don’t get me wrong—this movie is about as educational to a law student as an episode of Ally McBeal,  but that isn’t the point.  What it does manage to do is keep you on your toes while giving anyone with a legal background some serious questions to ponder.

The movie, starring Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Phillippe, is an adaptation of a book of the same name written by Michael Connelly. The film incorporates the typical themes found in legal thrillers: the tortured lawyer, good vs. evil, the pursuit of justice, etc . . . .  So the film is no game-changer, but it brings a few interesting angles to the legal drama, and the all-star cast makes it worth seeing. The movie’s fast-paced and moody feel is somewhat reminiscent of McConaughey’s first legal film, A Time To Kill, which was a pleasant surprise considering A Time to Kill was awesome and probably the only decent acting gig McConaughey has had since Dazed and Confused.

It’s nice to see McConaughey back in his niche of the sweet-talking lawyer, and this time he’s playing Mickey Haller, an averagely successful defense attorney known for getting crooks off the hook.  The movie title derives its name from Haller’s mobile office, a Lincoln Town Car, driven by his devoted driver Earl (Laurence Mason). Haller generally handles some nasty characters, the likes of which include gang members, murderers, prostitutes, and drug addicts.  He lives by his father’s motto that “the scariest client a lawyer will ever have is an innocent one” and generally believes that all of his clients are guilty some way or another.  He prides himself on knowing the system and pays the bills by getting criminals the least amount of jail time.

Haller’s not-so-stable career, however, is turned upside down when he takes the case of rich playboy Louise Roulet, played dryly by Ryan Phillipe.  Roulet has been charged in the brutal beating of a prostitute but vehemently denies any wrongdoing and instead claims the prostitute is framing him for money.  Roulet and his real-estate mogul mother (Frances Fisher) are willing, with the help of Haller, to do anything to prove Roulet’s innocence.  As the plot unfolds, Haller begins to discover loopholes in Roulet’s story, and it becomes pretty clear that Roulet isn’t who he says he is.

Now here’s where the story really takes off.  As Haller unravels the truth about what happened the night of the beating and discovers more and more secrets about his client, he quickly finds himself between a rock and a hard place, otherwise known as the Attorney-Client Privilege Vortex.  That’s right.  For all you gunners out there, just seeing this movie could be a great way to brush up on your professional responsibility knowledge and/or poke holes in the plot.  For everyone else, it’s the beginning of a tense and entertaining rollercoaster of twists that may be more easily spotted by the legally adept but which are nevertheless interesting.  McConaughey shows his rarely seen acting range when his character is pushed to the brink and forced to find a cunning way to solve his problems without breaking the privilege (although breaking the law seemingly isn’t a problem).

Some other highlights of the movie include William H. Macy, sporting a sweet handlebar mustache, as Haller’s personal investigator; Marisa Tomei as Haller’s sultry ex-wife; and Michael Peña as an inmate Haller once represented who claims to be the very thing Haller always feared—an innocent client.  The cinematography at times can be shaky (presumably to add to the “energetic feel”), but the down-and-dirty L.A. scenery and “old school meets new school” soundtrack more than make up for it.  While The Lincoln Lawyer won’t be winning any Academy Awards this year, it’s definitely worth the ticket price and a break from the books.

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Rating: 4.6/5 (13 votes cast)
Movie Review: The Lincoln Lawyer, 4.6 out of 5 based on 13 ratings