the_lincoln_lawyer_web.jpgBecause of Hollywood’s recent infatuation with adaptations and computer-generated action films that are filled with unnecessary 3D animation, I have come to long for a good storyline.  On those rare occasions when a filmmaker does something original, I take notice.

Although I had misgivings about The Lincoln Lawyer, because it is yet another adaptation of a novel by Michael Connelly, it is still a good film.  The movie's selling point is that it’s just a good ole’ thriller flick, like the ones that were so popular in the early 1990s.  The Pelican Brief comes to mind.

In Lincoln Lawyer, Matthew McConaughey plays Michael “Mick” Haller, a shyster lawyer who does business in the back of his outdated Lincoln while being chauffeured by his driver Earl (Laurence Mason).  Mick takes on a high-profile case of a man, Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe), who is accused of beating and attempting to rape a prostitute. 

Brad Furman’s directing style in this film looks like outtakes from a CSI: Miami episode.  He uses lots of unnecessary movement and color to bring about a mash-up of chaos. I could have done without the intricate POV shots and the still photography effects.  The plot is somewhat complicated and doesn’t need special effects to make it interesting.

What’s so tricky about John Romano’s screenplay, though, is that he has the audience volleying back and forth between believing in Louis’ innocence and believing in his guilt.  The best part of the story is how Mick figures out what’s going on and talks and finagles his way out of a very bad situation.

Another great aspect of Romano’s script is that no scene is wasted.  Every scene has a purpose and they come together at the end.  I have to commend Romano for not having filler scenes to pass the time.  He’s a great writer.

As for McConaughey’s performance, it’s nice to see him go back to his roots.  After all, the dramatic thriller, A Time To Kill, made audiences notice him. Even though I loved him in The Wedding Planner, romantic comedies are not his thing.  He’s too rugged to be the romantic leading man.

Phillippe gets kudos for renewing my belief in his acting ability.  For a while, he kind of stayed in the shadows of his ex-wife Reese Witherspoon, playing it safe in his roles.  His Louis is a departure from the cookie-cutter man that we’re used to seeing and it looks good on him.

Phillippe and McConaughey can’t take all of the credit for the success of Lincoln Lawyer, though.  They had tremendous help from a stellar cast. 

Marisa Tomei continues to shine as an actress as Maggie McPherson, Mick’s ex-wife and the mother of his child.  She’s come a long way from being the loud mouth, albeit Oscar-winning, Jersey girl in My Cousin Vinny.  William H. Macy as Frank Levin, Mick’s right-hand man, is nothing short of spectacular — surfer boy hairstyle and mutton chop sideburns and all.

Other actors of note are Josh Lucas as Ted Minton, a sniveling prosecutor salivating at anything to prove the defendant guilty.  John Leguizamo portrays Val Valenzuela, a fast-talking bail bondsman in a way that only Leguizamo can.  Michael Pena shows a bit of range as Jesus Martinez, a man convicted of a crime that he may or may not have committed.  And Mason’s Earl is an interesting character, to say the least, in much need of more scenes in the film.

Yes, just when I was asking myself when I would again see films like the great thrillers of two decades ago, I get an answer in The Lincoln Lawyer.

Kimberly Grant may be reached at