The Lincoln Lawyer (Lionsgate, R)

I must commend McConaughey on stepping away from the romantic comedies. He’s definitely a major reason this film works so well.

I’m pretty good at guessing whether or not a film will be crap just by watching the trailer. From what I’d seen of The Lincoln Lawyer, I figured it wouldn’t be anything other than a trite, well-meaning legal drama. I’m happy to say, though, that I’ve never been more wrong.
Mick (Matthew McConaughey) is a slick, well-paid defense attorney who’s anything but well known, and happens to work out of his chauffer-driven Lincoln Town Car. When he takes on a high profile client, however, a case that looks cut and dry soon reveals itself to be much more intricate.
There’s a lot to love about The Lincoln Lawyer, but let’s start with the story. It can’t be easy to condense a novel that comes in at over 500 pages into a two-hour film, but screenwriter John Romano has done it with aplomb. He manages to give us a story that’s fully fleshed-out in a world that feels absolutely real and lived-in.
For instance, you’ll come away from The Lincoln Lawyer with some questions. Why does Mick work from his car? Mick makes a big deal about getting paid, but we don’t see evidence of his wealth anywhere; where does all his money go? He has a mighty friendly relationship with his ex, Maggie (Marisa Tomei), so why’d they break up in the first place?
It’s good not to have the details of every character’s life completely spelled out. Often, when exposition gets heavy in a movie, it can force the audience right out of the mood of the film. You’re being told instead of shown, and that only increases your outsider-ness and the feeling of watching something someone made up. Here, though, by 10 minutes into the film you feel like you’ve stepped into a real life. These people have histories with one another that show up in their every interaction.
The film also manages to avoid a tactic that’s overused in this type of film—I call it the ooh-that’s-going-to-be-important-later shot. You know the scene I’m talking about; everything is moving snappily along when, suddenly, the camera lingers on an item that has absolutely no meaning to the story up to that point. Two weapons become very important during different times in this movie, but before they do, those items are never so much as mentioned. I loved that! The audience doesn’t need to be given clues about upcoming plot points. There’s nothing wrong with letting us be surprised.
The movie is also very well paced. There’s a good amount of (moderate) action to break up the legal/courtroom stuff. It was nice to see that all the action was meaningful to the story, not just tossed in when the filmmakers thought things were getting too lawyerrific. We also have enough plot twists to keep things from getting boring, and none of those revelations feel forced or overstated.
I must commend McConaughey on stepping away from the romantic comedies. He’s definitely a major reason this film works so well. His Mick may be slick, but he’s also intelligent, compassionate, funny, and willing to admit his mistakes then work his ass off to fix them. I’d certainly pay to find out more about Mick and watch him crack another case.
Wait, did I just ask for a sequel? Well, I guess I’m a changed woman. │Adrienne Jones

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