Saturday, April 16, 2011

Film Review: The Lincoln Lawyer

Hurrah! Matthew McConaughey's finally made a movie a male audience can enjoy. I don't know why, but McConaughey is always getting roped into starring in lame ass romantic comedies such as Fool's Gold and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Isn't that what Paul Rudd's for? McConaughey's been excellent as an action hero in otherwise B-grade films like Reign of Fire and U-571, but he seems to prefer romcoms.

In The Lincoln Lawyer he plays a semi-slimy lawyer named Mick Haller who operates out of the back seat of his Lincoln Continental. The car is driven by his (political incorrectness alert!) black chauffeur. Anyway, he ends up representing a spoiled rich kid accused of assaulting a prostitute and things get sticky from that point on.

The fun of this film is that it has a retro 1970s feel. The stylish opening credits seems to announce this fact, and the gritty L.A. locations aren't the usual postcard scenes of piers, beaches and boardwalks. Although there are thriller elements here, the film is mostly a courtroom drama, and it's one of the better ones to come along in recent years. The glue that holds the whole film together, though, is McConaughey's performance. He's got the rogue with a heart of gold (divorced with a daughter he loves dearly) thing down pat, and he's believable as a sharp-witted lawyer.

The film does suffer a bit from a couple of scenes that require McConaughey to show some teary emotion; it's not that he can't do this, it's just the scenes feel shoehorned in to make the character more human. Ryan Phillipe's rich kid is completely one-dimensional, which is fine since the fun in this kind of film is a clever plot, not revealing layers of character motivation. And in that regard the ending is pleasantly unexpected. Instead of being changed by his experience, the Haller character goes right back to being a sharp, slimy lawyer who's fun to watch. Not a perfect movie, but it's always fun.

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