The wordy legal-drama that is The Lincoln Lawyer, succeeds in the courtroom. A courtroom that only makes an appearance in about 20 of the 119 minutes. Cause you know they had to work in a shirtless Matthew McConaughey scene in there amongst other things.
It’s funny, over the course of reviewing movies, a common phrase one will hear out of critics is, “The script didn’t answer all the questions it asked.” With regards to this particular piece, just about everything is answered. Which is suffice. However, these aren’t the answers the audience will want to hear. In other words, the storytelling was not as succinctly executed as it could have been. Frankly, one might not give a damn about this bland tale at all, despite a few interesting performances. (That paragraph was my defense lawyer dialogue impression).
Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) comes across as a slick defense attorney in the state of California. He walks the walk and talks the talk. Although he looks established in his field, he still runs his law practice out of the back of his black Lincoln town car, driven by Earl (Laurence Mason). He has a young assistant (Pell James) doing work from her apartment on his behalf. Plus, he has numerous connections with informants on both sides of the law. When he receives a referral from one of these said connections in Val (John Leguizamo), he sees the chance to really break through and make a name for himself.
The referral comes in the form of a assault case, in which Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) – heir to the throne of a wealthy real estate company – pleads his innocence to Mick Haller in a convincing manner. Mick is accompanied by his trusted associate/investigator Frank Levin (William H. Macy rocking a mullet and porn-stache), and they begin to form a defense. As the two dig deeper, they begin to find flaws in Louis’ story, but still believe he didn’t commit the crime. Add to the fact that the District Attorney’s chosen prosecutor, Ted Minton (Josh Lucas) seems disarmingly confident that he’ll win the case. Of course, Mick Haller questions who to believe and realizes this case may decide the fate of more than just his questionable client.
Naturally, there are multiple twists that appear throughout this story. When the script introduces a new wrinkle in the case, one will be just slightly intrigued. That said, none of the angles are compelling enough to really rope you in. Some of the blame falls on the dialogue and the delivery of it. McConaughey is far too-laid back, to the point where his voice is almost slurring rather than razor-sharp. When he talks outside the courtroom sequences, his tone will lull one to sleep. Same for the seldom used Phillippe. He’s just as soft spoken, even during the intense moments. The script is trying to keep the characters in a professional state of mind, but it fails to draw out any emotion from the audience. Chances are, one will have tuned out after the opening 15 minutes.
If that was the intended tone of best-selling author Michael Connelly’s novel, it’s admirable the writer and director stayed true to the source material. That said, why bother turning this into a drawn out feature, that doesn’t generate a connection with its own characters in the script; therefore, it makes it that much harder for the material on the screen to relay a concise story to the viewer. And why are they employing the hand-held camera method here? It just added to the erratic delivery in certain scenes.
Speaking of delivery, the story picks up after the crime has been committed. So when McConaughey’s character is going over scenarios with William H. Macy, the footage is portrayed in soap-opera like flashback sequences, showing Phillippe being both the good and bad guy. It broke up the monotony of the pacing, but it made the flick feel like it was being pieced together as it went. Yet that is how a mystery novel would typical tell a tale of this nature. So again, kudos for staying true, and these said scenes depicted are alright. But the screenplay is too jumpy.
Overall, The Lincoln Lawyer plays similar to 2007’s Fracture. It just doesn’t drum up the interest levels or have the performances that particular piece displayed. The flick strived to project an intellectual atmosphere, but was hampered with an average screenplay and directing, in trying to reach that level. The balance of entertainment prowess is never truly found. This reviewer rests his case.
RATING: 2 out of 5