Rated R for some violence, sexual content and language, 119 minutes
"The Lincoln Lawyer" is slick, guilty-pleasure entertainment
"The Lincoln Lawyer" is guilty, guilty of being a slick, entertaining and well-acted crime thriller, one of the best of recent memory. This crowd-pleaser predictably hits all the right notes but you'll find yourself enjoying it far more than you think. It becomes a bit redundant and draggy in the last act before it regains its footing for a nice, twisty ending.
Based on the 2005 best-selling novel of the same name, "The Lincoln Lawyer" concerns Los Angeles defense attorney Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey), a slick, smooth-talking attorney who conducts most of his work out of his 1990's-era Lincoln Town Car; he's defended lots of questionable folks, including his current client, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), a rich young real-estate agent who comes from a powerful, very wealthy L.A. family. Roulet claims to have been set up, but things don't appear to be adding up for Roulet as Haller and his assistance Frank (William H. Macy) start digging around. Now Haller is stuck defending someone he doesn't like, putting his career and his family, including ex-wife Maggie (Marisa Tomei) in danger.
"The Lincoln Lawyer" is a standard, but handsome by-the-numbers crime thriller that you've seen before but is still vastly entertaining, thanks to a superb cast headlined by McConaughey, who make this thing worth watching. McConaughey, who gained fame playing a lawyer in John Grisham's "A Time to Kill," gives his most engaging, least self-aware performance in years as the lawyer who does his business in the back of a Lincoln. Even better is the stellar supporting cast, including Phillippe as a slimeball client, Tomei, Macy, along with Josh Lucas, Frances Fisher, Bryan Cranston, Michael Pena, John Leguizamo and even country singer Trace Adkins, nearly unrecognizable in a brief but key role.
With newcomer Brad Furman's direction, you have a sense of where the stylish, smooth production is going, even down to a mildly surprising ending that has a decent emotional payoff. Some of it lacks efficiency, especially in the draggy second act, until it reawakens for a decent climax. With wavy hair, Southern accent and a swagger most would envy, McConaughey seems born to play this smooth-talking type, but one thing's for sure, you won't be looking away.
McConaughey needs a hit (commercial, critical or otherwise), and "The Lincoln Lawyer" could be his ticket out of the mediocre rom-coms he's been plagued with the last few years. "The Lincoln Lawyer" is guilty of being guilty-pleasure entertainment that could find repeat business with the lack of decent cinematic choices lately, and I would have no objections to that. A crime thriller worth a look.
Wes's Grade: B