83% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The plot follows the exploits of Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey), a defense attorney with a reputation for being an ambulance chaser, when he takes on the case of Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe). Louis is accused of assault and attempted rape on a prostitute, he is also the son of a very wealthy family who are prepared to let Haller name his price. Naturally Haller figures this is a great deal, he doesn't see any particular complications in the case as it's presented to him, and he gets to make a fast buck of the family. Naturally though, when something seems to good to be true, it probably is. As Haller and his long time friend, private investigator Frank Levin (William H. Macy), dig deeper into the case, they begin to suspect that their client is being less than truthful with them. Haller quickly finds himself in the middle of a deadly game, and he's not the one making up the rules this time.
As I pointed out in the introduction, I was very impressed with McConaughey's performance in the movie. After seeing him embrace the cliched romantic comedy lead for so long, it's very refreshing to see him tackle a role with some depth. I admit that I have not read the novel on which the movie is based, but McConaughey does a great job of giving Haller a great degree of personality and character. Within minutes of seeing him on screen we have a good idea of who this guy is and how he does his job. Equally impressive was William H. Macy's Frank Levin. Sporting a somewhat unconventional hairstyle for Macy, Frank Levin is a competent by humorous P.I. that seems to act as a kind of moral compass to the more reckless Haller. The easy friendship displayed by these characters is a testament to the fine acting on display, I really bought that these guys were life long friends, and Macy doesn't even have that much screen time. I wonder if it is a compliment to say that Ryan Phillipe is good a playing a creep? The first movie I ever saw the actor in was Cruel Intentions, and almost every role I've seen him in since has had that same smarmy creepiness about it. I think perhaps in the this movie he does too good a job of conveying that character, it immediately makes the audience suspicious of him (though granted the trailers for the movie pretty much spell out that Phillipe's character has something to hide).
Another supporting actor of note is Marisa Tomei as Hallers ex-wife and the mother of his child. Again in a very short space of time the actors establish the complex relationship these two have, as well as their history and what drove them apart. I always enjoy Tomei's performances, she is of course well known for her role in My Cousin Vinny, but I found her small supporting role in The Watcher to be far more compelling. I think the latter performance is more in keeping with her character here.John Leguizamo does have a small role in the movie as bale bondsman Val Valenzuela, but honestly it is so brief that he really doesn't have the time to build the character at all. Such that I feel pretty much any actor could have played that part.
The movie does a great job of keeping the audience guessing. Personally as much as I knew there was something off about Roulet, I could never quite establish his guilt or innocence for myself. Additionally the sense of tension builds very gradually over the course of the movie to effectively draw you in. As time passes I felt much more invested in Hallers situation and really related to the character... I wanted him to find a solution. The one complaint I could probably make about the movie is how neat and tidy the ending winds up being. I'm always on the fence about criticizing endings, they are definitely the hardest part of the story to get right. Even more so in a typical Hollywood movie when you have about 2 hours to tell a complete story. The more background you build in to flesh out your characters the less time you have to bring everything to a satisfying conclusion. Which isn't to say that The Lincoln Lawyer's ending is unsatisfying, it's just rather quickly resolved. Especially after the movie builds up and builds up, it all just felt a little too easy in the end.
Overall though I really enjoyed the movie, the acting was very good, the script was well written and felt natural and the pacing was almost perfect. There was pretty much no segments in the movie that I felt needed tightening up. If you enjoy a good legal drama, The Lincoln Lawyer should definitely leave you entertained.
Final Verdict on The Lincoln Lawyer: