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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “McConaughey steps out of romance, into suits”

    It’s good to see Matthew McConaughey pull himself away from romantic comedies and don a suit to play the smooth-talking lawyer, Mick Haller, in “”The Lincoln Lawyer.”” Adapted from Michael Connelly’s bestselling book, “”The Lincoln Lawyer”” follows Haller as he represents a prominent client, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), who is accused of severely beating a woman he met at a high-end club.

    Haller works from the backseat of his black, 1980s Lincoln Town Car, hence the title. He routinely represents clients who are guilty of their crimes — meth-making bikers, drug-addicted prostitutes — but his fees and legal tactics vary according to his own sense of justice. The bikers have to pay thousands of dollars to get their friend out of jail while the prostitute, who might not be able to afford his fees, gets into a nice rehab facility.

    That Roulet asked for Haller specifically is not the first unusual part of this case. Roulet insists that he is innocent and that Haller not negotiate any deals for a reduced sentence, in spite of the evidence and any testimony. As Haller digs deeper into the case and Roulet’s past amid his personal uncertainty, the facts bring him back to an old client, who may be serving time in prison as an innocent man.

    How do you make a legal thriller feel lively when we’re inundated with police and legal-drama TV shows and movies? The actors meet this challenge with good-to-great performances. McConaughey looks at ease as the charming Haller, whether it’s grifting wealthy clients with a fake cameraman or getting information from and flirting with his ex-wife, prosecutor Maggie McPherson (Marisa Tomei), at their favorite after-hours bar. At times, McConaughey brings flashes of his “”Tropic Thunder”” character, Rick Peck, aka “”The Pecker””, to Haller, much to the benefit of “”The Lincoln Lawyer.”” You can believe that Haller is willing to do anything to see that his client — and justice — are served.

    Phillippe gives a great performance as Roulet. He casts little doubt about his innocence in the beginning or his motives as the story progresses. Phillippe reminds us that he can excel when acting with a good script and a strong cast.

    Director Brad Furman, who has made mostly short films, and cinematographer Lukas Ettlin (“”Battle: Los Angeles””) give “”The Lincoln Lawyer”” a pace and polish that are at once familiar yet refreshing from TV or movie legal dramas. The songs featured in the movie — a classy mix of blues, hip-hop and soul — give “”The Lincoln Lawyer”” a vibe that fits its Beverly Hills landscape.

    Not everything goes down as smoothly as the soundtrack, though. Many of the supporting actors are given one-dimensional characters that do nothing more than advance the story. Tomei is given an unfortunate flat line about why McPherson and Haller are divorced. William H. Macy, as Haller’s investigator Frank Levin, is little more than long hair and a big mustache, and Haller’s setup and legal maneuver in the final courtroom scene does not quite make sense.

    Watching “”The Lincoln Lawyer”” is like reading a bestselling author in great form. You may not get much subtlety, but you’ll be too wrapped up in its brisk plot and bold main character to care.

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