When a book is adapted into a film usually it means that there is at least some promise to what is being presented, but let’s face it, as soon as you heard this title you wrote it off like I did. I mean, who wants to see some movie about a lawyer to a president ages ago? Well turns out this one has nothing to do with good ol’ Honest Abe. Better yet, it’s actually really good.
Four score and seven years ago… No just kidding. The Lincoln Lawyer tells the story of a smooth talking, charming manipulator who makes a living putting these skills to work in the legal system. As a lawyer he defends petty criminals, from those busted with drugs to those found hooking on the street corners. Being great at what he does, when an opportunity comes knocking that can move him up to the big leagues he jumps at the opportunity to defend a wealthy client who may just know how to play the system as much as his lawyer.
Okay, so I didn’t really write this one off because of the title… Or at least it had nothing to do with Abraham Lincoln anyway… Though I wasn’t intrigued by it I was actually prematurely pushed into a lack of enthusiasm as soon as Mathew McConaughey showed up in the trailer. Sure he has proven himself as a capable actor before, but it is more than possible that the bad taste left by Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and his overexposed shirtless lifestyle had convinced me otherwise, and as the Lincoln Lawyer shows, unjustly so. As Mick Haller, McConaughey comes out with the confident swagger of an unstoppable man who could smooth talk his way out of anything, with a smile full of charm as the cherry on top, persuading me that this was solely why he got the job. Turns out he can actually be much more multifaceted when the job calls for it. Sure the alcohol was relied on a little too heavily to show he had some inner turmoil when he begins to question himself and his case, but overall he was pretty impressive in the leading roll.
With that said, McConaughey is far from alone in this film. Ryan Phillippe plays both sides of the coin really well as Louis Roulet, Haller’s playboy client who is not always the easiest to read and just as strong of a liar as the lawyers he has to defend him. William H. Macy plays an investigator and court jester as Haller’s talented friend in comedic timing and sounding board. The rest of the cast is rounded out by Marisa Tomei as Haller’s ex-wife, Josh Lucas as a prosecutor for the DA, and John Leguizamo as a bail bondsman (which had to be explained to me, oops), and Laurence Mason as Haller’s driver, but the surprise came from the amazing performance given by Michael Peña in the short amount of time he was given on screen as one of Haller’s previous clients.
Though I will just have to assume that Michael Connelly’s novel was well written, it sure was translated really nicely to film. Other than a few distracting transitions during a recounting scene early on and an ending that felt to drag on past a stronger possible ending (though it would have left a string untied), the script is so well done that it is far more entertaining than I ever expected. Though this usually means more comedic than I expected, which is true here, what I was really impressed with was the fact that what is going to happen and what the characters are planning is never really handed to the audience. Instead everyone plays a great game of poker with their hands held close to their chests, allowing the audience to attempt at educated guesses of what they believe to be the truth until the extremely satisfying reveal.
In the end The Lincoln Lawyer proves that it is far more than I gave it credit for pre-viewing, making for a surprisingly entertaining film that will keep the audience guessing until the end.
Final Grade: B+