Published Mar 18, 2011What's interesting about The Lincoln Lawyer, a standard, serviceable courtroom drama with themes of moral certainty and the complexity of justice, is less the film itself and more what it says about the career trajectory of its cast members.
It's been about 15 years since Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Phillippe were at the top of the A-list: McConaughey for playing an idealistic lawyer fighting against the odds in A Time to Kill and Phillippe for playing a petulant brat in I Know What You Did Last Summer and Cruel Intentions. Incidentally, they play these exact same characters in The Lincoln Lawyer, only with a little less youthful gusto and more world-wearied venom. Marisa Tomei, on the other hand, appears to be passing time while waiting for a better script to make it into her hands.
Based on the Michael Connelly novel of the same name, this tale of attorney-client privilege, legal loopholes and mind games has titular criminal defense attorney Mick Haller (McConaughey) operating out the back of a Lincoln sedan, representing known thugs without a concern in world, invested fully in the functionality of the justice system. Since this is a generic, mainstream parable reiterating the status quo, these values come into question when an unlikely high profile case lands on his lap, leaving him defending an arrogant millionaire named Louis Roulet (Phillippe) with a possible connection to a case from Haller's past.
Even though many of the plot twists and case points don't come as much of a surprise, there are enough secondary storylines and vague characterizations floating around to keep this standard issue drama vital for its runtime. We have the suspicious cop (played by Bryan Cranston), the wise, idiosyncratic P.I. (William H. Macy) and the reluctant, but curious ex-wife (Tomei). They all weave in and out of a formulaic storyline, making the most of their flimsy archetypes.
It's as though everyone involved knows this is a safe, by-the-numbers film that can't hurt their careers. The story is entertaining, challenges nothing and even has a few zingers peppered through the script to inject the occasional laugh into the array of exposition. In fact, something like this might even help our increasingly orange, surfer dude, leading man escape from the rom-com hell he currently inhabits. (eOne)