Title: The Lincoln Lawyer
Director: Brad Furman
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Marissa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, John Leguziamo
While novels often captivate readers for allowing them to use their imaginations to picture how a story unfolds, their movie adaptations often pale in comparison. Readers are often disappointed by the director and screenwriters’ visions of how the plot-line should play out, and what the characters and settings look like. But one adaptation that breaks free from that stereotype is director Brad Furman’s screen version of author Michael Connelly’s crime novel The Lincoln Lawyer. The legal drama exceeds expectations by not only focusing on the book’s important theme of trusting your instinct and doing what’s right, but also featuring a surprisingly convincing Matthew McConaughey in the title role.
‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ follows Los Angeles defense attorney Mickey Haller (played by McConaughey) as he conducts most of his business out of the backseat of his Lincoln sedan. After building his career on pleading his guilty clients on open-and-shut cases, Mickey gets the case that could make his career. Bail bondsman Val Valenzuela (portrayed by John Leguziamo) refers him to the case of Beverly Hills playboy and real estate agent Louis Roulet (played by Ryan Phillippe), who was arrested for brutalizing and raping a prostitute.
While Mickey believes Louis’ proclamation of innocence when they first meet, his stance quickly changes. As Mickey has investigator Frank Levin (portrayed by William H. Macy) analyze the evidence in the case, he begins to struggle over whether or not he should believe his client. Adding to his suspicions is his prosecutor ex-wife Maggie (played by Marissa Tomei), who questions how he could defend criminals while she works to sentence them.
While ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ is McConaughey’s first crime legal thriller since 1996’s ‘A Time to Kill,’ and he has become known for his romantic comedies and action movies over the past 15 years, he still gives an excellent performance as Mickey. In the beginning of ‘The Lincoln Lawyer,’ McConaughey portrays Mickey as though he only cares about how many plea bargains and not guilty verdicts he can obtain to further advance his career. Even with other high-profile stars in the movie, including Tomei and Macy, McConaughey stands out as he convincingly gives Mickey a completely new outlook on life.
As ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ progresses, viewers will surely feel as though Mickey wants to stop persuading his clients to accept plea offers just because there isn’t enough evidence in the case. McConaughey seems to truly understand Mickey’s increased desire to protect the innocent, and do what’s best for his clients, instead of himself. ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ was the perfect platform for McConaughey to prove to the world that he can truly relate to his character on a philosophical level, instead of just spending the entire movie trying to charm the lead female character.
Screenwriter John Romano effortlessly brought Connelly’s story to the big screen, easily translating the novel’s significant theme of the importance of self-examination to the movie’s plot-line. While Romano and Furman could have instead solely focused on Mickey’s determination to set Louis free, the two made the right decision to also include how the case impacted Mickey’s personal life. It’s not often that Hollywood depicts defense lawyers as people who are plagued over whether or not their clients are truly innocent. ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ stands out amongst other legal dramas for presenting its title character as sympathetic towards other people.
Considering that Connelly has won every major award given to mystery writers, including the Edgar Award and the Los Angeles Times Best Mystery/Thriller Award, and Mickey Haller is one of his most well-known characters, Furman and Lakeshore Entertainment took a risk when it decided to adapt The Lincoln Lawyer. But the movie ultimately succeeded in translating the novel’s message of standing up for what’s right, even if it’s not the popular option. McConaughey’s surprising and convincing portrayal of Mickey definitely helped make the movie interesting and entertaining.
Written by: Karen Benardello