Review: "The Lincoln Lawyer"

Plot: A low-level lawyer mysteriously lands a high-price case.

Bottom line: A guaranteed crowd-pleaser, thanks mainly to McConaughey in what could be a franchise-worthy role

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei

Length: 1:59

'The Lincoln Lawyer' makes a good case

In this film publicity image released by Lionsgate,

In this film publicity image released by Lionsgate, Matthew McConaughey, left, and Ryan Phillippe are shown in a scene from "The Lincoln Lawyer." (Credit: AP )

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In the midst of a deluge of high-concept, multigenre, motion-capture movies -- in 3-D! -- comes "The Lincoln Lawyer," a low-concept, single-genre film with live actors whose performances add the depth.

That's refreshing -- so much so that it's tempting to call "The Lincoln Lawyer" a masterpiece. It's really just a solid courtroom drama, but these days moviegoers should take what they can get.

Matthew McConaughey plays the title role, Mick Haller, a high-minded lawyer who defends lowlifes from the back of a shiny Continental. Given his client list of bikers and junkies, Haller is surprised when a Beverly Hills rich kid named Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe, not exactly stretching) retains him to beat an assault charge. The case turns out to be less than straightforward -- aren't they always? -- and it triggers bad memories of an old client (Michael Peña) whose fate haunts Haller still.

Even if the plot were spoiled here, "The Lincoln Lawyer" would be worth seeing. McConaughey wears his roguish role as if it were bespoke; it's a treat watching his Haller slither through backroom deals and elevator-ride negotiations. The terrific supporting cast includes Marisa Tomei as the (mostly) ex-wife and William H. Macy as a grizzled but razor-sharp private investigator.

Directed by Brad Furman and written by John Romano (from the novel by former crime reporter Michael Connelly), "The Lincoln Lawyer" brims with authentic details, zippy dialogue and colorful performances from even the smallest players. Things get a bit silly at the end -- don't they always? -- but it's hard to stay mad when McConaughey is flashing that who-loves-you smile.

BACK STORY

Actor, producer agree on role

For the filmmakers of "The Lincoln Lawyer," the charismatic Matthew McConaughey was the ideal choice to play the title character, maverick attorney Mick Haller.

"Matthew has always been one of my favorite actors, and this role is perfect for him," says producer Gary Lucchesi. "We get to see him play all these qualities that made him a star to begin with: a confident guy with a bit of a swagger and loads of charm."

The seasoned legal eagle McConaughey plays in "The Lincoln Lawyer" is much different from the inexperienced and idealistic one he played in "A Time To Kill," though.

"Mick's not naive by any means," observes the actor. "He's pretty much a pragmatist and understands how the system works. He has rules, but he bends those rules and knows how to play both sides of the law."

McConaughey, who has appeared mostly in comedies and action adventures in recent years, says it was fun to get back to drama and portray a somewhat flawed but ultimately good-hearted character. The actor spent some time talking to defense attorneys, specifically L.A. defense attorneys, to get a handle on his role.

"They're street-smart slick," he says, "and they're wheeling and dealing and constantly on the move."

-- Entertainment News Wire

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