This is director Brad Furman’s second feature film, adapted from a Michael Connelly bestseller by John Romano, and it places him promisingly high on the list of talents to watch. The Lincoln Lawyer is an assured, cool and stylish legal thriller with a smooth Matthew McConaughey in the title role.
In fact, it’s McConaughey that really makes this film special, and it marks his return to serious cinema. He’s been on a sabbatical from this kind of thing for far too long, making dire romcoms with Kate Hudson and the like, but now he’s back and more brilliant than ever. Michael Connelly’s confident Californian lawyer Mick Haller is brought to life with McConaughey’s effortless charm – a quality he kept well hidden while making films like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. As the title would suggest, he travels round California a Lincoln, which doubles as his office. When he’s offered the job of defending a rich young man (Ryan Phillippe) accused of violently assaulting a prostitute he sees this as a rare opportunity to make some big money.
As Haller and his private investigator (the reliably superb William H. Macy, who looks like an aging member of a 60s rock band) dig into this rich kid’s history they find disturbing details about his past; details that are going to make it very difficult for Haller to defend him.
John Romano’s script crackles with intelligence and style, and although it abandons subtlety for melodrama towards the end of the film, it’s still one of the most confident crime-novel adaptations cinema has seen in years. Sadly these books usually fall into the hands of TV executives who intend on taking the characters and putting them into a 24-episode series. Thankfully this film has reminded doubters that crime cinema can be cinematic and as enjoyable as a well-thumbed paperback thriller. It would be great to see McConaughey’s turn as Haller again in a follow-up picture, and if The Lincoln Lawyer does well that may just happen. But for now we are to be content with this – a smart and gripping film with a charismatic hero at its centre.
Good: Clever, exciting and great to look at. And that’s just Matthew McConaughey.
Bad: The final showdown has a hint of the ridiculous, but it does it with style.