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movie review: The Lincoln Lawyer

Leonard Maltin By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin March 18, 2011 at 4:15AM

'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?
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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.

This article is related to: Film Reviews, Matthew McConaughey, John Leguizamo, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, The Lincoln Lawyer