We’ve been subjected to so many hokey legal thrillers (often based on bestselling novels) and cheesy Matthew McConaughey romantic comedies over the last several years, it’s easy to forget that both legal thrillers and movies starring Matthew McConaughey were once things we looked forward to. The genre and the actor get a bit of redemption in The Lincoln Lawyer, an entertaining adaptation of Michael Connelly’s 2005 novel, starring McConaughey as a street-level attorney who finds himself in over his head on his latest case. The story is engaging and clever, and McConaughey doesn’t even take his shirt off once. It’s practically a miracle.
The charm that once had people positing McConaughey as the next Tom Cruise is in full effect in his performance as Mick Haller, who practices law out of his car (hence the title) and isn’t above striking deals with biker gangs to get what he needs. Haller’s latest case, involving a rich pretty boy (Ryan Phillippe, surprisingly menacing) accused of a rape and assault he says he didn’t commit, turns out to be way more complicated than it appears at first, with some exciting twists and turns (although perhaps a few too many by the end).
Lawyer plays like a well-made TV pilot (the character went on to star in two more Connelly novels), with a strong supporting cast including Marisa Tomei, William H. Macy and Frances Fisher. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s so far ahead of most legal thrillers and McConaughey vehicles that it might as well be. –