The Lincoln Lawyer

Lawyers, Guns and Money

The good news is that they’re making Dirty Harry movies again. The other good news is that they’re making them really, really well.

The Lincoln Lawyer has that 1970s Streets of San Francisco look and vibe, and it’s strangely nice to see it back again. The real surprise for me was Matthew McConaughey, who I have always dismissed as a pretty boy but who certainly earns his spurs here (aided and abetted by the fact that in profile he looks just like Paul Newman). Lawyer Mick Haller is hard-boiled, hard as nails, and hardly ever in his office. When he takes on the promisingly profitable case of a young rich kid targeted by an assaulted prostitute looking for a handsome payout, he bites off more than even his iron jaw can chew.

The plot is lean, mean and unpredictable, but retains its plausibility through some very corkscrew-like twists and turns. You will be kept guessing, which is why I won’t spoil it for you here, but it really is a nail-bitingly close thing at the end. Suffice to say that all is not what it seems, and the rich kid Louis Roulet (a sweet-faced Ryan Philippe) may have done a lot more than he initially lets on. I twigged that he was a rotter as soon as I saw him on the golf course in that polo shirt – no-one on a golf course in polo shirt in a Hollywood movie is ever entirely guiltless; it’s convenient shorthand for ‘Republican’. (It’s almost as bad as showing someone in church).

I loved every minute of this movie, especially because even though it’s set in the present day, it captures that Dirty Harry era feeling by casting actors who have not had much or any ‘freshening up’ done. William H Macy is a delight; he looks like he’s been sleeping on a park bench face downwards, and Marisa Tomei proves yet again that women can be absolute stunners even with a full set of crow’s feet. Frances Fisher captures the rich kid’s frosty-bitch mother beautifully, and the two cops likewise, right down to their ill-fitting suits and suspicion of wise-guys: Bryan Cranston’s Detective Lankford is a direct cinematic descendant of A Night at the Opera’s ‘Henderson, plain-clothes man’, whom Groucho says looks more like an old-clothes man. In fact, everyone in this movie looks their chronological age and also rather overworked, stressed and tired – except for McConaughey, who despite a promising booze-and-late-nights habit looks radiant throughout, even when supervising a beating by a bikie gang (and especially then).

The courtroom drama stuff is unglamorous, tense and realistic, and it nicely explores the bind of professional confidentiality. The trap in which Haller finds himself is a truly horrible one, but the way in which he gets out of it is absolutely brilliant. You will cheer, and quite possibly start applauding (as one guy down the front of our cinema did when somebody unpopular finally got plugged). It’s a winner, and I think it’s worth the price of admission.


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