Matthew McConaughey is a strict and dedicated method actor. That method being taking off his shirt at every possible opportunity and revealing the chiselled framework beneath. Such is this mans painstaking commitment to this most noble of art forms it has become a notorious part of Hollywood’s history (as this sublime tribute from Matt Damon shows).
But you will find no chiselled abs in this tale my friend, oh no. No pert pecks either. For in this story they are kept firmly behind shirt and tie, locked under more appropriate garments for court proceedings. McConaughey’s more conservative attire indicates a less conservative strategy for him in his latest movie. Used to relying on his good looks to sell crappy romantic comedies to easily pleased audiences, McConaughey does that rare thing in a film in which he is top of the billing: act.
The Lincoln Lawyer is about a lawyer who conducts his business from the back of a Lincoln Town Car. So that explains the title. Now this is a legal drama and every lawyer must have a client and so step forth Ryan Phillippe. A rich mummies boy from Beverley Hills who has a penchant for hanging out in bars where prostitutes like to ply their trade. So when one who lures him back to her place claims she was savagely beaten by him, McConaughey’s character just assumes he has been put on the case to get a guilty rich kid off the hook.
And that’s where I’ll leave the plot explanations because as this is a crime thiller you can’t get past the first scene without running into some kind of twist or turn or narrative trickery. But if you do want this film explained to you in the broadest possible terms then I suggest you go and seek out the trailer, interviews, sound clips, video clips and synopses. Because, yes yet again, this is another mass market film that pursuades you to watch it by telling you everything about it.
This is somewhat of a bug bear for me. As part of what I do I have to keep up with film news and marketing campaigns, all of which seem to be so desperate to blurt all the plot points to me that I don’t believe I’ve seen one genuinely good surprise in a cinema in years. As far as the marketers are concerned, if it’s a good twist it’s just another bullet point to be broadcast on the back of the box.
Now here is why this little rant is relevant to the review. The Lincoln Lawyer is all about the twists. All about the moments of shock and surprise that are supposed to keep us hooked. It is, after all, based upon a crime novel, the point of which is to keep the reader guessing and caring until the very end. But if you go in knowing all what the film is trying to conceal from you, then it doesn’t have much else to offer. It’s one of the reasons that I found myself bored throughout most of the movie.
It’s a shame because while this is your basic John Grisham pulp (well in this case it’s Michael Connelly but you probably know Grisham better) it’s competently made pulp. It’s mostly well acted, McConaughey is surprisingly good although sometimes he clearly looks like he’s trying too hard, while Phillippe never looks like he’s trying hard enough. The direction is unspectacular, but the cinematography is gorgeous always giving you a great sense of climate and humidity pulling you into the world of middle class Los Angeles with the late night bars and sun soaked streets. Combine this with a soundtrack that combines easy going Hip-Hop with soulful Motown and you have a film with terrific sense of place.
But without the key element of surprise upon which the success of the film rests, it’s hard to recommend. If you’ve seen the trailers or read other reviews only go and see this if you are confident that the other elements will compensate for the loss of dramatic impact; that goes double if you’ve read the book. But if you’ve managed to steer clear of the publicity this could be worth a look. And give me a message if you do, tell me how much better the film is. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org