Friday, March 18, 2011

Cool As A McConaughey Cucumber: The Lincoln Lawyer

This  review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

Back in the day, I thought Matthew McConahayhay was the bee's knees. Of course, I can't remember just what movie made me think that, but he was voted People's Sexiest Man Alive at some point, so maybe I was just basing my lust on that. Oh, and how he looks without a shirt, of course.

But then McConaghay started playing bongos in the nude, seemed to exist in a haze of pot smoke, and was basically shirtless all the time, often while doing yoga on the beach. All that shirtlessness just forced me to look at his face a little more, and you know what? Not that cute!

"The Lincoln Lawyer," based on the book by Michael Connelly, stars Matthew McConequy as slick Los Angeles defense attorney Mick Haller, who works out of the back seat of his 1980s Lincoln, for a reason that is never really made clear. A chauffeur, (Laurence Mason),--and former client--drives him around town as he wheels and deals from case to case, cool as a McCouneghy cucumber. And he wears a suit--which means, a shirt--throughout it all. This is a major disappointment since the movie would have been a lot more entertaining if he showed up in court partially naked at least ONCE.

Haller is hired by Louis Roulet, (Ryan Phillipe), a rich kid real estate magnate accused of the brutal assault of a hooker. Roulet maintains his complete innocence, arguing that he is actually the victim of an elaborate plan to get his money via an eventual civil suit seeking damages. But since Roulet is played by Phillipe, an actor who manages to ooze creepiness and sleaze no matter who he's playing, his innocence seems...questionable.

If there's one thing attorneys and detectives should learn after years of noirish crime books and movies, it's that if a rich client decides to hire you, someone not under his usual employ, something is definitely up.

And so, the case proceeds. Nothing is as it seems. A surprisingly well-known supporting cast pops in and out of the story. This includes Marisa Tomei as McConeghough's ex-wife-with-ridiculous-hair; William H. Macy as his equally shaggy investigator; John Leguizamo as a greasy bail bondsman; Michael "Eddie and the Cruisers" Pare and Bryan "Breaking Bad" Cranston as detectives; and most ironically, Josh Lucas, an actor who looks a LOT like McConneghy, as the prosecuting attorney.

McConeguyhugh's Haller goes from smooth operator to despondent, sweaty drunk in the blink of an eye, wrestles with the moral ambiguities of his profession, but remains smart enough to--spoiler alert!--stay alive through the film's multiple climaxes. (Seriously, this movie has so many endings I stayed through the credits just to make sure they didn't tack another one on there.)

I supposed there isn't anything overtly bad about "The Lincoln Lawyer;" it's fairly engrossing and acted well enough. It hits all the marks you want a courtroom thriller like this to hit. But you can also turn TV on any night of the week and watch a TV show about a lawyer, or someone in law enforcement, dealing with a similar case, that is just as good as this movie. With that kind of comfortable competition up against you, you had better bring something extraordinary to a story like this. And a shirted Matthew McConaughey isn't it.

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