The Lincoln Lawyer

24 03 2011

Based on the novel by Michael Connelly, The Lincoln Lawyer follows a confident, high-profile lawyer in Beverly Hills. When one case begins to go awry, Michael must rely on his intellect and street smarts in order to survive.

Whether you love him or hate him, Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) is a thoroughly interesting character. As a smooth-talking defense lawyer, he has successfully represented a number of less-than-innocent clients and has earned a reputation for being the best in the business. His gentle, southern drawl controls the courtroom with ease.

After a wealthy client appears to have been set up by a prostitute, McConaughey offers his (expensive) assistance. It doesn’t take long before the case is revealed to be far more than a simple assault or robbery.

McConaughey is fully absorbed in this role, and does a worthy job of portraying a complex character. The demons in Mick’s past, including an innocent client in prison, and a divorce, are manifested in his current self. He drinks heavily when under stress, and is clearly torn between the right and wrong things to do (which is difficult to do as a defense lawyer).

Problem, bro?

In spite of his troubles, Mick’s charming personality is at the centre of this movie. He knows how to develop power over people, and what to do when he holds that power. In both his romantic life and his court cases, he is extremely adept at manipulating people to do what he wants. His chauffer, Earl, puts it best when he says, “You would have done well on the streets.”

One of the most fascinating parts of The Lincoln Lawyer is the nuances of the justice system. Attorney-client confidentiality plays a crucial role, and it is truly extraordinary to watch Mick pick apart witness testimonials in the courtroom. Even when the audience knows who is and is not innocent, Mick’s arguments leave us in doubt.

Although many scenes take place in and around the courtroom, the audience is never bombarded with legal jargon. At times when the use of a legal term is unavoidable, there is always a clear definition of the impact this will have on the plot. Having this safety net in place greatly assists our understanding of an already complicated storyline.

On that note, the plot is complicated because it is based on a novel that is over 500 pages long: it is difficult to crunch the twists and turns of a narrative like that into a two-hour movie. Nevertheless, the consensus seems to be that the screenplay does an admirable job of representing the novel.

The one fault I have with The Lincoln Lawyer is its length. I understand that the movie has a novel to follow, but I thought it was about to end at least twice before the actual conclusion. The final twist seems especially unnecessary.

Aside from that extra few minutes, The Lincoln Lawyer is a fantastic movie that will appeal both to those familiar with courtroom dramas, and those new to the genre. It is well-acted, well-scripted, and surprisingly entertaining.