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Majestic Preview: The Lincoln Lawyer

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After a week given over to the combined Joe Brogie shows and Grease Sing-Along, the Majestic Theater is offering The Lincoln Lawyer.

Summer blockbuster season started up last weekend with the release of Fast Five, so if you’re dreading another summer filled with explosions and screen-saturating CGI effects, the Lincoln Lawyer offers a smaller film experience of the sort you find in the in-between movie seasons, where characterization and nuanced stories have a better chance.  That doesn’t mean The Lincoln Lawyer skimps on the show.

The cast is deeper than the material, starting with Matthew McConaughy in the title role, Mick Hall, a cynic’s defense lawyer who know how to work all the billing angles and will take on any client.  Supporting McConaughy are several actors who would run away with the movie if they had been given more bandwidth, including William H. Macy as Hall’s investigator, Marisa Tomei as a D.A.’s office lawyer and ex-wife to Hall, John Leguizamo in a small part as a bond bailsman, and Ryan Phillipe as a dubiously earnest defendant.  Rounding out the cast are a couple of “oh-yeah” notables: Frances Fisher as an unusual helicopter mom, Josh Lucas as Hall’s adversary in the courtroom, and Trace Atkins as the front man of a motorcycle gang.

The story comes from Michael Connelly, who’s written lots of books I’ve never read but have noted in the bookstore for their prime shelf-position.  It is a story about lawyers and the movie can’t help but drift into a sort of complicated narrative that works better in prose.  Suffice it to say, I hit a point where I didn’t see how Mick Hall was going to extricate himself from his situation even though I knew he was bringing something to play.  The Lincoln almost rolled off its wheels in the last act, threatening to leave everyone unsatisfied.  Fortunately, the very lasts scenes return to a proper or, at least, completed ending.

Given a history of nothing-characters often stuck opposite the rom-com-of-the-moment starlet, it’s nice to see McConaughey get a role that suits him well.  Believe it or not, the man can actually act.  Perhaps he’s gaining the advantage of a bit of age, his presence on screen communicates a sort of harried unevenness, rather than the rock-solidity of a pretty-boy leading man.  He makes great work of portraying a character that doesn’t have the luxury of character-developing dialogue other than establishing a weird middle-ground that exists between him and his ex-wife and an obvious penchant for hard alcohol.

There is a great film to be found in this material, but The Lincoln Lawyer, while being a decent homage to the compromised heroes of film noir, misses the mark.  A longer treatment might have fleshed out more of the supporting cast and the moral ambiguities of the situation.

See Also

To build upon my comparison to characterization from film noir, I can’t help having a Samuel Fuller itch to scratch after watching The Lincoln Lawyer.  A darling of cineastes largely ignored by the general public, his stories have a kinetic realness mixed with subtle questions of justice.  From my viewing experience, I can recommend Pickup on South Street and The Crimson Kimono.

Marisa Tomei’s had a nice mid-career resurgence in the past several years, the hallmark role coming in The Wrestler.

And my left-field pick is Wallander, the six-episode series featuring Kenneth Branagh aired on Masterpiece Theater in the U.S. and now available on DVD.  Taking a longer pace, this is a good example of how a complicated leading character can be developed as well as providing plenty of plot movement.

Written by Bill

May 5, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Posted in Movies

Tagged with ,

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