Cineworld Glasgow, 19.03.11

It’s sometimes difficult to remember that Matthew McConaughey can be taken seriously as an actor.  It’s been a while since the earnest lawyers portrayed in Amistad (1997, Spielberg) and A Time To Kill (1996, Schumacher), and even the easy-going charm of EdTV (1999, Howard)  and Sahara (2005, Eisner) has worn thin with a serious of rom-coms ranging from awful to mediocre.  Even when trying to do something more telling, alongside Al Pacino in Two For The Money (2005, Caruso), he has seemed more concerned with showing off his sculpted torso than acting ability.  It comes as something of a surprise then to see the latter to the fore in The Lincoln Lawyer, and the former kept under wraps.

Which isn’t to say The Lincoln Lawyer is a film without other problems.  Based on a novel from Michael Connelly, the plot is filled with various inconsistencies and holes that threaten to derail the tension of the court scenes.  McConaughey’s defence lawyer, Mick Haller, who uses a Lincoln car as his office, hence the title, takes on the case of a rich client, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe), accused of attempted murder and rape.  When Haller realises Roulet is guilty of the crime, and of a previous murder for which another client Haller represented has ended up in prison for, he is trapped by Roulet into continuing to represent him.

All the traits of a courtroom thriller are present and correct, although there is something unerring in Haller’s brilliant and unfaltering defence of a man he knows to be guilty and is trying to frame him for the murder of his partner.  The courtroom scenes therefore lack tension or sense, and McConaughey performance lacks the nuances required to suggest Haller is losing control or is ever really in grave danger.  Similarly, the prosecution, led by Josh Lucas, are so hapless, one wonders why Roulet has gone to such convoluted measures to escape punishment.

Other bum notes include a dreadful habit of inserting hip-hop and rap music to liven up the pace, which appear to have wandered in from another film altogether, and occasional scenes thrown in to introduce characters and plot lines, but for no other reason.  At one point Haller arrives, unmotivated, at a (presumable) police station, gets into an elevator, where he is derided by a bitter cop about a previous case, and then… the scene ends.  Presumably on the cutting room floor is the scene which followed revealing why Haller had gone to the police station in the first place. 

Still, The Lincoln Lawyer moves along briskly enough to maintain interest and skirt over the inconsistencies, and is helped by a good, if underused, cast (particularly a criminally underused Marisa Tomei).  And it’s nice to see McConaughey keep his shirt on for a change.

Film Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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