movie review: The Lincoln Lawyer

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
March 18, 2011 4:15 AM
6 Comments
  • |

The Lincoln Lawyer is a well-crafted, well-cast adaptation of Michael Connelly’s best-selling novel, shot on interesting Los Angeles locations. It’s a crime thriller with whodunit overtones, and there are twists right to the very end. So why isn’t it better?

One problem may be its two-hour length. Admittedly, adapting any novel—especially one as carefully constructed as Connelly’s, with so many characters to portray—is a challenge, and can’t be dealt with as one would an episode of CSI. But after nabbing our attention with its introduction of those characters and setting up the central story points, the movie loses momentum. I was actually conscious of my attention flagging, which bothered me because I was rooting for this movie.

Matthew McConaughey does a fine job as Mick Haller, who operates out of a Lincoln Continental—and I do mean “operates.” He’s one slick attorney who—

—knows all the angles and isn’t afraid to play them, whether it’s bribing a bailiff to get his client higher on the morning roster or cajoling information out of his ex-wife (Marisa Tomei), who works in the d.a.’s office. He’s accustomed to dealing with low-lifes, and the fact that he helps some of them go free doesn’t win him any fans in the L.A.P.D. So when he’s summoned to represent a wealthy young man (Ryan Phillippe) who’s accused of brutally beating a prostitute, he takes full advantage of the situation, until it turns on him.

It’s a pleasure to watch a film that makes such good use of the city and fills its cast with such solid actors as John Leguizamo, Michael Peña, Bob Gunton, Frances Fisher, Josh Lucas, Bryan Cranston, William H. Macy, and Shea Whigham. I’m still not entirely sure how a film that makes all the right moves can manage to come up short, but I have to rate it as a near-miss. Perhaps there’s a reason so many producers have optioned, then abandoned, Connelly projects before: what works so well in book form doesn’t necessarily translate to the big screen.

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6 Comments

  • Abbe | April 10, 2011 1:53 AMReply

    I saw this yesterday and really enjoyed it. It was a good, solid story. I find most movies too long, and attribute that to bad editing (see "Unstoppable" for an example of really good editing). This movie actually could have used a little more set up, in terms of some peripheral characters who turn up early on but don't make much of an impact, but you need to recall them later. A couple of minutes more there, a little less of the relationship between the ex-spouses would've taken care of that without lengthening the film. All in all, very solid, well cast, good plot.

  • STEVE | April 2, 2011 7:57 AMReply

    Really enjoyed it, Great story of course Screenplay got in more of the book than I initially expected, but when I read that Connolly thought they'd done the book right I relaxed.

    Not a fan of most of McConaughey's roles, but he returns to the legal thriller with a lot more experience (and better script) than he had in "A Time To Kill" and is a winner.

    This is the kind of movie that doesn't get made much anymore- just watching the trailers of the coming attractions made me feel like I'd time warped back - to time when story and acting was more important than CGI and explosions (or CGI explosions:) and ever more low brow comedies....in selling tickets for 'adult' movies.

    Again, that this was well-adapted from a book by one of the best-in-genre (maybe The Best) is a huge bonus. Heartening that it's still doing well in the weekly grosses a couple weeks in. The crowd at the theater I saw it in obviously enjoyed it.

  • RVD | April 2, 2011 1:22 AMReply

    I disagree--the movie was just the right length. I was caught up in it all throughout; no flagging attention on my part. (I want a full 2-hrs of a good film when I'm paying this kind of money for movies today!) I've not read any of Connelly's book, so came at this with no expectations whatsoever. I thoroughly enjoyed it--well made, well acted (great cast!), great story. I generally don't like McConaughey's insipid work, but he's redeemed himself here.

  • Mark G | March 20, 2011 4:57 AMReply

    Maltin has the same three criticisms he uses over and over and over and over and over and over again. A movie is "too long", "loses momentum", "isn't as compelling as it ought to be", blah blah blah. He must have some serious ADD.

  • Jason | March 18, 2011 6:29 AMReply

    Wow, that's kinda a bummer. I like MIchael Connelly's books and I loved the Lincoln Lawyer especially. It's a real shame none of his books can get the screen treatment they deserve.

  • Brett | March 18, 2011 3:24 AMReply

    This film gets an 83% rating on RottenTomatoes.com. Mr. Maltin has been out-voted.

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