The Lincoln Lawyer

The Lincoln Lawyer stars Matthew McConaughey. And I just spelled his last name correctly on the first try, so let’s get right to a preview:

The deets:

Released March 18, 2011

Written by John Romano, based on the book by Michael Connelly

Directed by Brad Furman

Starring: Marisa Tomei, Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillipe, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas,  John Leguizamo, Michael Pena, Bryan Cranston, Margarita Levieva, Michael Pare, and Michaela Conlin.

Rated: R (a tame ‘R’)

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The Lincoln Lawyer follows Mickey Haller (McConaughey), a rather low-grade, somewhat too-slick, fast-talking attorney who works out of his Lincoln car. Hence the name. This is a rather odd conceit, especially since the fact that his office has four wheels doesn’t really have any bearing on the story. But let’s put that aside.

Mickey tools around from case to case, winning and losing here and there until a tip from bail bondsman Val (Leguizamo) sends him to represent Louis Roulet (Phillipe), a young heir who is accused of viciously assaulting a woman named Reggie Campo (Levieva). Louis insists that he is completely innocent and rejects any movement toward a deal or anything that isn’t total acquittal.

Mickey maneuvers his ex-wife, Maggie (Tomei), who works in the DAs office, off of the case as  an initial salvo. He then proceeds to get the young man out on bail and tries to put together a case based on his client’s profession of innocence. A cynical defense attorney, Mickey wonders  if it is possible he’s finally found a client who is actually innocent. He’s a little haunted by a previous case wherein Jesus Martinez (Pena) was convicted of the vicious assault, rape, and murder of a prostitute, because Martinez never stopped emotionally insisting he was completely innocent.

From the outset, Mickey has the feeling that there’s more to the story than Louis is sharing, but he’s not sure. Then his investigator, Frank (Macy), starts finding information that is self-contradictory but also sets off alarms in Mickey. Suddenly there’s a connection between this case and that of Martinez.

What this story tries to do is answer the question: What if a defense attorney finds out that his client is not only guilty of the crime he’s accused of, but at least one other murder case that the attorney lost a few years previous? The issue of attorney-client privilege is a sticky one and it’s very interestingly explored in this movie.

The story unfolds quickly, with the case essentially solved at the end of the second act, but Mickey being forced to use his slickest moves to keep his family out of danger and put a cold, vicious criminal behind bars. Because as Mickey says earlier, “It’s about justice.”


The Lincoln Lawyer is slick, polished, and tense. You see the twists coming, as you should with this kind of legal thriller, and feel the tension ratchet up in Mickey’s life. There are only one or two minor plot holes which are forgivable– both having to do with Louis Roulet’s mother’s involvement.

Most reviewers agree that it sure is nice to see Matthew McConaughey return somewhat to a pretty fair acting form. I am with them, but I sure would like him to really get so deeply into a character that we don’t see Matthew McConaughey any more, like Phillip Seymour Hoffman does.

A quick jab at my fellow reviewers, however. Most of them say it’s nice that McConaughey has stepped out of his roles as an initially insensitive ripped beefcake in what they term “mindless” rom-coms. Look, critics, those things aren’t mindless. They’re formulaic, to be sure, but so is The Lincoln Lawyer, no matter how gritty and wonderfully shot it is. Stop ripping on romantic comedies. They might not be the high-brow indie fair you love to swoon over, but they’re still cinematic entertainment that is enjoyed by countless folks who just want an emotional escape. So back off.

Now, the acting across the board is excellent in The Lincoln Lawyer. Tomei is a very good actress and she plays her somewhat underused character with strength. Cranston plays a small part, but he’s got great levels, as do the other fine actors playing cops: Pare and Conlin. William H. Macy is a little underused, but he makes the most of his role as Mickey’s investigator, Frank.

One good thing about Mickey working in his car is that it shrinks the perspective, making the shots intimate and very close. This perspective is maintained throughout the film, adding some weight to the actors’ performances.

The Lincoln Lawyer, while not particularly ground-breaking, adds some freshness to the twisty legal thriller genre and is diverting and enjoyable.

Content warnings: some profanity, some intense violence, some sexual content without nudity

Writing: 4          Acting: 4.5          Overall: 4

Don’t agree with me? Everybody else does. I can prove it, check out The Lincoln Lawyer on Rotten Tomatoes.

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About jared

Jared Garrett works as a writer, the manager of a program development department in the corporate world, and an instructional designer. He is a family man with an adorable, fun, and way-too-smart wife, six silly kids, a new house with an overgrown back yard, seven fish, and a bunch of chickens. He has written fiction, user manuals, SEO copy, radio scripts and textbooks and has won first place in the Mayhew writing contest at BYU and received honorable mention in the Writers of the Future contest. He lives at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains and is currently seeking representation for his myriad completed novels.
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