The Lincoln Lawyer

Having been subjected to uncountable courtroom thrillers since the dawn of cinematic time, making one worth the mention is quite the accomplishment. It is why it is always questionable to brand a genre movie such as “The Lincoln Lawyer” as predictable, considering a genre movie is by definition a film that exploits clichés. However, many of its predecessors have skilfully succeeded in keeping its audience on its toes. “Primal Fear” showcased incredible performances and quite an unexpected final twist, “A Few Good Men” managed to give the standard courtroom drama more substance with its political undertones and “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” skilfully blended two genres into one. The same cannot be said of “The Lincoln Lawyer”.

In this case, the storyline does not pull any punches, and unassumingly basks in the standards of its genre. A defense lawyer (Matthew McConaughey) takes on a case that challenges his moral values. The case: a rape and attempted murder. The suspect: the spoiled son of a real estate tycoon (Ryan Phillippe). The victim: a prostitute. Twists and turns ensue as the lawyer uncovers truths that some would kill to keep buried. In short, nothing we haven’t seen before. However, despite its predictability and lack of originality, “The Lincoln Lawyer” still manages to be quite entertaining, namely due to its leading actors’ performances.

McConaughey’s career choices since his breakthrough performance in “A Time to Kill” have been questionable at best. Appearing in way too many ephemeral romantic comedies, many were left wondering if McConaughey would ever be taken seriously as an actor again. It is why taking on a role akin to the one that first put him on the map may have been his smartest career move yet. McConaughey is more inspired than we have seen him in a long time and even manages to regain a little credibility. The same can be said about Phillippe, who despite having acted in a couple of good films (“Stop Loss”, “Flags of our Father”) has not had a compelling performance since “Cruel Intentions”. In “The Lincoln Lawyer”, Phillippe is engaging as the shady suspect with a penchant for prostitutes, confirming that he shines best as an antagonist rather than as an all American hero. The two actors play well off of each other, and render this by-the-book courtroom thriller quite entertaining despite its disconcerting knack for clichés.

Down the line, this movie will go down in the annals of cinema as yet another forgettable courtroom thriller. However, if you are looking for an entertaining and unassuming popcorn flick, or have been waiting to see a good McConaughey movie for more than a decade, “The Lincoln Lawyer” just might be a film for you.

Review by Ralph Arida