The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

Rating: B-

Dir: Brad Furman
Star: Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillipe, William H. Macy, Marisa Tomei

I guess Christian Bale was busy, but McConnaughey channels him to surprisingly good effect, playing criminal defense lawyer Mickey Haller, who has built his reputation on defending criminals, by any means necessary – a career which was partly responsible for costing him his marriage to Maggie McPherson (Tomei), a state prosecutor. Haller’s latest case is playboy son Louis Roulet (Phillippe), who has been accused of beating a prostitute, a claim he strenuously denies. While Haller is initially happy to take his large fee, he gradually comes to suspect that Roulet is not all he seems.

Indeed, he might not just be guilty here, but also responsible for a murder, a case in which Haller convinced another suspect to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty. Roulet’s desire to have Haller as the lawyer could be part of his sick game. However, Haller is obliged to do the best he can for his client – at least in the case for which he has been hired… I’ve seen McC in a few movies, but this may be his best performance yet. It’d be easy to dislike someone like Haller, but the way he’s portrayed, you find yourself rooting for the man – while you may not necessarily agree with his moral code, at least he has one, which becomes increasingly clear as things unfold.

And woe betide you if you find yourself on the receiving end of his wrath: attorney/client confidentiality may bind his hands with regard to direct action, yet that’s a perilously-thin protection from a man who has spent much of his life twisting the law to the advantage of his clients. I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but the legal shenanigans here have the air of truth, and Phillipe is also more than credible as the psychopath who believes himself to be untouchable. The courtroom drama isn’t a genre that I tend to go into often, and that perhaps makes this seem fresher than it may be; however, as the cinematic equivalent of a page-turner, it’s more than acceptable.