Wednesday 14 December 2011

Movie Review: The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

Based on a Michael Connelly novel, The Lincoln Lawyer tries to sizzle but quickly fizzles into an unsatisfying and improbable courtroom drama.

Los Angeles lawyer Mickey Haller (Matthew McConaughey) operates out of the backseat of a Lincoln Town Car. Specializing in defending low-life criminals that even he believes to be guilty, Mickey is surprised when spoiled rich kid Louis Roulet (Ryan Philippe) selects him to defend a charge of assaulting a high-priced prostitute. Roulet and his powerful mother Mary Windsor (Frances Fisher) are among society's elite, and far from the riff raff that make up Mickey's typical client list.

As Mickey starts probing the Roulet assault charges with the help of investigator Frank Levin (William H. Macy, wasted in a throwaway role), he uncover links to one of his previous murder cases in which Mickey was too hasty to convince the accused (Michael Pena) to plead guilty. Mickey realizes that Roulet is a manipulative criminal enjoying a cunning game in which Mickey himself is being played for a fool. He sets out to rectify matters in the courtroom and on the street.

As hard as it tries to be something more, The Lincoln Lawyer never offers much beyond a poor television episode of Law And Order, injected with some star power. The plot quickly gets too convoluted and is immediately punctured by the most tiresome of coincidences, from Mickey having to deal with a prosecutor who is also his ex-wife (Marisa Tomei), to his incredible abilities to manipulate a hardened jailbird at long distance. And there must have been a good reason why Mickey didn't immediately quit the Roulet case once he understood the web that he had walked into; that reason is never explained.

The ending is hastily wrapped up with little logic, the John Romano script celebrating as Mickey resorts to gang violence, and the final act of justice - and a death penalty punishment, no less -  improbably succeeding on the flimsiest parking ticket evidence that any good defence lawyer could have discredited in minutes.

A hunky Hollywood star cruising in the back seat of an impressive black Lincoln is far from enough to save a movie that trades away intellectual content for some paltry style.

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