Film Review: THE LINCOLN LAWYER

Directed by Brad Furman
Written by John Romano, based on the novel by Michael Connelly
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Pena, Frances, Fisher, Bryan Cranston, William H. Macy

Good cast right? I don’t usually go this long with listing cast members, but this was a first-rate cast assembled for a first-rate legal thriller. All of them kept up their end of the bargain. However, the Lincoln in the title could have fit between the holes in the plot, holes I doubt were in the novel. I really wish Connelly would get the kind of treatment Lehane got in Mystic River or Gone Baby Gone. Instead he gets another Blood Work.

PLOT: Mickey Haller (McConaughy) runs his practice from the back seat of his Lincoln. It’s mostly the down and dirty defenses you’d expect. He has two ex-wives (although I didn’t realize the second one was a wife until later) and a daughter. His Lincoln is driven by an ex-client who owes him money. A motorcycle gang, also in debt to him, acts as enforcers when the case calls for it.

One day, a well-heeled client, Louis Roulet, (Phillippe) asks for his services. A woman has been beaten and nearly murdered and fingers Roulet as the perp. Why does this rich kid choose a lawyer practicing from a backseat instead of a swanky Beverly Hills office? The story rests on this question.

The woman’s face resembles the face of a woman beaten earlier. Links to a former case of Haller’s, one he mishandled, arise. The story becomes garbled early on (was there too much plot for a movie to be coherent or is the director too much a novice?) and we’re expected to find a case about a guy who beat up a woman, and maybe did it before, interesting enough to sustain us. I never really got a clear idea of what the client was up to. Nor his mother. When she turns up in Haller’s apartment near the end, we can’t really identify her with much of anything.

With TV shows like JUSTIFIED, BREAKING BAD, THE KILLING and THE GOOD WIFE, putting out complex stories with complicated characters week after week, this movie seems dated. Several characters have so little to do you wonder why they didn’t cut them (Macy, Fisher, Lucas.) The attempt to elbow in a romance with his ex-wife here also seems forced. Yes, they still love each other; no, they don’t.

This is not a terrible movie if you don’t expect to follow every plot strand to its conclusion. The acting, music and ambiance work well. And perhaps if you go to having read the book, it will all come together.

Patti

Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at http://www.pattinase.blogspot.com/ She hopes you’ll join in.