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Lincoln Lawyer, The (Blu-ray Review)

8 Jul, 2011 By: John Latchem

Street 7/12/11
Box Office $57.8 million
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for some violence, sexual content and language.
Stars Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Peña, Frances Fisher, Bob Gunton, Bryan Cranston, William H. Macy, Margarita Levieva, Trace Adkins, Laurence Mason, Michael Paré, Michaela Conlin.

In one of his early film roles, a twentysomething Matthew McConaughey played an earnest Southern lawyer in 1996’s A Time to Kill, an adaptation of a John Grisham novel. With The Lincoln Lawyer, the fortysomething McConaughey’s career is circling back on itself with another literary lawyer role, this time as Mick Haller from Michael Connelly’s 2005 novel.

The Lincoln Lawyer is a compelling if uncomplicated legal drama about the games lawyers and cops play to get the result they want, which more often than not involves backdoor dealings, deceptions and a pretty decent payday. It reminds me a bit of the TV show “The Practice,” which was filled with similar morality-bending cases on a weekly basis.

A front-and-center motif involves the degree to which a lawyer can let his conscience be his guide, especially as it relates to living with the knowledge that failure could cause an innocent man to be locked up for life.

Armed with his usual charm and shit-eating grin, McConaughey comfortably inhabits Haller, a slick-talking, street-smart shyster who toes the ethical boundaries of his profession as he conducts his business from the back of his Lincoln towncar, which lets him maneuver between Los Angeles courthouses more quickly. His latest case involves a rich playboy named Louis (Ryan Phillippe) accused of attempting to murder a prostitute.

Haller thinks Louis is on the up-and-up until he starts poking around the gaping holes in the kid’s story and discovers the case relates to an earlier episode where a former client is serving a life sentence for a murder it now seems he didn’t commit. So Haller finds himself trapped by the rules of his profession, going through the motions of trying to win a case he hopes to lose while at the same time twisting those same rules just enough to figure out how to free an innocent man and send a bad guy to jail.

As shady as Haller seems, he also happens to be a damn good lawyer, and that depiction gives the movie a lot of credibility. The cast is strong all around, including another excellent supporting turn from stalwart William H. Macy as Haller’s shifty investigator.

Connelly has written at least three more novels centered on the Haller character, and I wouldn’t mind seeing McConaughey taking on the role again in a film follow-up.

Extras on the Blu-ray are light but substantive, with three featurettes exploring not only the making of the film but also the original novel. Connelly has a prominent role here, discussing not only the origins of the story (he got the idea after talking to a lawyer he met at a Dodgers game) but also his own career, as he gives a brief tour of the story’s Los Angeles locale. In another vignette, Connelly interviews McConaughey about playing Haller.

Also included are some brief deleted scenes that don’t add anything to a greater understanding of the film.

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