Film Review: The Lincoln Lawyer

14 April 2011

Written by: Penny Evangelou

If you’re looking for a courtroom drama with a touch of old Hollywood charm then The Lincoln Lawyer is the film for you. Based on the crime series by Australian author Michael Connelly, the film is (happily) a far reach from Matthew McConaughey’s recent string of chick flicks and subpar comedies. McConaughey comfortably settles back into playing the part of a defence attorney, fifteen years after his role in A Time to Kill. Director Brad Furman used his knowledge of L.A.-based crime stories to make an intriguing film out of what could have easily been another episode of Law and Order.

The film begins with a smooth ’70s jazz soundtrack moving through the dangerous streets of downtown Los Angeles. Enter Mick Haller (McConaughey), a slick L.A. lawyer who does his business from the back of his chauffeured Lincoln. A man oozing confidence, he even has the cocky number plate ‘NTGUILTY’, matching Haller’s persona perfectly. He is immediately set up as a double-cross lawyer who is looking out for number one, dealing with small-time criminals and biker gangs to get an edge on the ‘competition’. He has made a name for himself as the man who wins the unwinnable.

Edgy cases aren’t out of the ordinary for this smooth-talking defender so it doesn’t surprise him when his courtroom informant, Val Valenzuela (John Leguizamo), tips him off about a high profile case surrounding wealthy playboy Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), who has been charged with attempted murder of a young woman.  With money on his mind and a strong alibi behind him, Haller is sure that he can get his client off scot-free.

But Haller’s personal private investigator and best friend, Frank Levin (William H. Macy), feels uneasy about his new client, (rightly) saying that something is off about him. What ensues is a cat and mouse chase between Haller and the police for evidence that threatens to ruin Roulet’s reputation.

This film has a fairly predictable plot but is saved by McConaughey’s commitment to the role. The combination of his watered-down southern drawl, lingering stares and perfect delivery make it a film worth watching.

Minor supporting roles from Marisa Tomei as Haller’s ex-wife added an interesting angle to the film. My only wish was to have seen more of her, but I’m sure that, as a sequel is considered (this adaptation is the first in a series of books by Connelly), her role will be reprised. Phillippe brings back a little bit of his Cruel Intentions magic as Roulet, flitting between the line of sane and psycho. At times the film was a little hard to follow – there are a lot of names being thrown around at the beginning – so I wouldn’t watch it if you’re not in the mood to focus. But if you are looking for something serious and not too overwhelming, this film is a good start. With drama, romance, action, mystery and a touch of comedy, The Lincoln Lawyer is the perfect movie splice.


Penny Evangelou is a final-year Bachelor of Journalism student who is passionate about food, fashion and beauty writing. Her upstart pieces include a profile of the food blog, Not Quite Nigella, and an interview with beauty queen, Zoë Foster.