By Marc S. Sanders
Michael Connolly authored a series of best seller legal thrillers featuring his famed character Mickey Haller. His most favored book of that series was adapted into a 2011 film called The Lincoln Lawyer with Matthew McConaughey in the role and directed by Brad Furman. I only wish more of Connolly’s books were adapted thereafter, because this movie is at least as good as the novel.
McConaughey is well cast as Haller, a defense attorney who operates out of his Lincoln Town Car working to get low level criminals off on technicalities or by easy settlements with the prosecution. His clients range from prostitutes accused of possession to notorious motorcycle gang members. When these clients can’t pay, Mickey wisely becomes resourceful with favors they can provide later on. One of his former clients drives the car while Mickey works in the back seat making calls out of his mobile office.
Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) has just been arrested for beating up a prostitute at knifepoint. Roulet is a spoiled, preppy thirty something who is protected by the vast wealth of his mother (Frances Fisher) and their successful real estate enterprise. So it’s surprising that Roulet turns to street lawyer Mickey to be his legal counsel. At the same time though, this is a big score in legal fees. So Mickey is enthusiastic to accept the case, and go to trial. Louis doesn’t want it any other way to prove and insist upon his innocence.
It wouldn’t be fair to reveal much more about The Lincoln Lawyer because it’s got a lot of welcome surprises and twists along the way. What I can reiterate is how good an actor Matthew McConaughey is as I’ve written before. He just performs with a relaxed and confident swagger about himself. Mickey Haller is written as a smart and very strategic attorney. He knows the ins and outs of the courtrooms. He not only uses his clients for additional help, but he also sidles up to the bailiffs so he gets his clients cut ahead of the line to quickly face a judge. McConaughey is really good at not glamorizing the intelligence of Mickey Haller, but rather the charming personality of the guy. The character doesn’t come off as having all the answers at his fingertips, even though he likely does. It makes the film that much more dynamic to see McConaughey’s personality ahead of a Sherlock Holmes or Perry Mason kind of lawyer who might telescope everything five steps ahead of what’s eventually going to happen.
The supporting cast of The Lincoln Lawyer is also magnificent with Marisa Tomei, Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Bob Gunton, Michael Pena, Trace Adkins, Josh Lucas and William H Macy. These are just great character actors. Everyone serves a purpose, even if it is just for a few moments.
Again, Mickey Haller is a great, modern day crusader. Like other literary characters such as Alex Cross and Jack Ryan, based on this film, I always hoped McConaughey followed up with at least one or two more additional films. I’d sure as hell be there to watch. Heck, the eventual Oscar winner went on to be a spokesman for Lincoln automobiles. So why couldn’t he have continued to carry the torch on the big screen?