Matthew McConaughey can do more than take off his shirt, apparently
When it comes to film there’s always been two different versions of Matthew McConaughey. There’s the one that most filmgoers know that takes his shirt off in romantic comedies that tends to be indistinguishable from one film to another. He’s usually that guy because it tends to bring in a bigger audience than anything he does. It’s hard to root for a good looking guy with an extraordinary physique to get the girl, though, so there’s always been a bit of a disconnect with a large amount of his audience, though, and on the rare occasion he does something that feels odd.
He takes a role that requires him to act, as opposed to just show up with six pack abs.
For all the films like Failure to Launch and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past that litter his resume, every now and again there’s a Two for the Money that shows the promise of his scene-stealing performance in Dazed and Confused. This is the other McConaughey, the one who at one time was compared to a young Paul Newman, and comes out every now and again with the right project. There’s a heck of an actor waiting inside of him that comes out every now and again, just to show that he isn’t a pretty face.
Thus comes The Lincoln Lawyer. McConaughey is Mickey Haller, a defense attorney who works out of a Lincoln Town Car. Known as an attorney who’ll defend anyone who can pay, preferably cash, he lands the case of a lifetime in accused rapist Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe). He comes from wealth and Haller thinks he’s found a small fortune for his defense. With a case that seems to be shut and closed in his favor, something feels a bit off for him and his investigator (William H. Macy).
It doesn’t feel right, despite the fact that every bit of evidence slants the case in his favor and what he discovers throws his professional ethics into upheaval. When one of his old clients (Michael Pena) could walk free with the knowledge he discovers he’s left in a dilemma. Should he violate his personal and professional ethos away to do the right thing? Or should he keep his mouth shut and just cash the check?
And it wouldn’t work if McConaughey didn’t have the acting chops to keep us interested. That’s the real heart of the film. With a cast of great character actors, and an Oscar winner in Marissa Tomei in what’s a throwaway part, everything is set up to make McConaughey look good. And he does for the most part because he has a great character to portray. The film’s need to force everything into a happy bow takes away from what should be a franchise character for McConaughey.
Haller is a highly ethical lawyer who just happens to a bit eccentric, for lack of a better word, in his personal life. The kind of slick operator that knows who to bribe, and who to befriend, Haller is charismatic but has a sense of integrity to him. It’d be easy to play him as a used car salesman with a Juris Doctorate on his wall but McConaughey gives him depth. He’s genuinely caring about his clients and wants to give them the best possible defense, regardless of what they’ve been accused of. McConaughey isn’t known for great performances and this isn’t one of them; it’s quite good though and shows what he’s capable of when pushed with the right script and cast.
The Lincoln Lawyer isn’t a brilliant film but it’s a very good one. If McConaughey does more films like this, and less like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, we might see that gifted actor that was seemingly promised over a decade ago.
Director: Brad Furman Notable Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Pena, Bob Gunton, Frances Fisher Writer(s): John Romano based off the novel “The Lincoln Lawyer” by Michael Connelly
Scott Sawitz is an Inside Pulse original. He's also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). When Scott isn't writing about film he's making his own. Check out Drunk Justice Productions right here.