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MOVIE REVIEW: The Lincoln Lawyer

Lawyers, guns, and money...get me out of this!

  • Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller in "The Lincoln Lawyer."
  • The Lincoln Lawyer
  • William H. Macy as Frank Levin in "The Lincoln Lawyer."
  • The Lincoln Lawyer
  • The Lincoln Lawyer
  • Ryan Phillippe as Louis Roulet in "The Lincoln Lawyer."
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I laughed when The Lincoln Lawyerproduction notes stated it was a courtroom drama starring Matthew McConaughey, who hadn’t seen a courtroom since A Time to Kill, with Sandra Bullock.

Marisa Tomei, who won an Oscar for her courtroom appearances in My Cousin Vinny, also got an Oscar nomination for another movie she had some courtroom scenes in – In the Bedroom (a great film). William H. Macy is decent in his role as a long-haired, mysterious investigator that’s McConaughey’s right hand man. He’s one of the best actors around and luckily for him, the weak spots in the script don’t usually center around his scenes. The rest of the cast includes Josh Lucas, and Ryan Phillippee as the client from hell.

Love a good movie that takes place in a court, but I hate flaws in them; even classics like Paul Newman’s The Verdict has a scene that bothers me so much, I think about it 25 years later! Part of the problem lies in the fact that we’ve seen this before, and often done better. When Phillippee starts manipulating McConaughey, we think of Edward Norton in Primal Fear (his first movie and Oscar nomination).

Another part of the problem is that they have characters talking to each other the way people just don’t speak. It’s like a screenwriter came up with cheesy one-liners that they’re spewing out at each other. A few of the times they worked, but when you’re watching verbal jousting that gets out of hand, you shake your head wondering why it wasn’t done better. An example would be a negotiation McConaughey has with a bunch of bikers. You see, he’s the “Lincoln lawyer” because he conducts business out of his Lincoln towncar. Apparently, instead of having a home office, bikers just pull up to his window on the freeway and signal for him to pull over (I’m guessing he’s got a ton of business cards all over the side of the road).

He then talks about all these expenses for one of their gang that he’s representing. He admits to his limo driver how he bilked them all so badly. Another scene has a DA giving McConaughey a hard time as they walk past security and metal detectors. It’s the usual hyperbole clichés you’ve heard a million times about defense attorneys. “How can you represent those scumbags? You let a murderer get away with it and walk the streets to murder again.” This conversation never seems to end, even as they go in the crowded elevator. McConaughey finally talks about the client he had that decapitated his wife and how the DA “tried to pin two other murders he didn’t commit on him, and he got his client off.” This DA responds, “Fuck you, for getting him back out on the street!” McConaughey gets in his face and says “Fuck the D.A. for getting greedy.”

A powerful comeback, sure... but am I really going to believe that the prosecution gets in legal and moral debates that we had in high school? Am I also supposed to believe that a DA would try to throw another couple of murders at a client when they had weak evidence? Usually they’re happy with a slam dunk murder case that will put the person away for 25 years, and if they suspect them of other murders, they can gather evidence with no real rush. If the case comes together and they can pin it on them while he’s behind bars, all the better. They certainly won’t risk an easy case by throwing other charges at a defendant.

And movie pet peeve #128 appears in this. That’s when you use old jokes for movie dialogue. In this, it involves McConaughey and Macy looking out the window of a skyscraper and talking about someone that committed suicide. When McConaughey asks what he thinks the last thing was that went through his mind, Macy says “His asshole!”

It’s strange to think that a lot of critics were tough in their reviews of the Cape Fear remake, which had similar moral questions, but was a lot better. This movie had potential, but ends up coming across like one of those legal thrillers we got so much of in the 90s.

It gets a D-.