In the Lincoln Lawyer, Matthew McConaughey plays Mickey Haller, a white shyster attorney who’s driven around Los Angeles by a black guy (Laurence Mason). A satirical Driving Miss Daisy-mocking dig or actual overt racism? Neither, amazingly, although it is implicitly racist in that our hero’s black chauffeur is mainly on hand to lend him some hipness. Thing is, there’s not a lot on The Lincoln Lawyer’s mind, but then there shouldn’t be: it’s an adaptation of airport trash, namely the first of four (and counting) Haller books by Michael Connelly.
Connelly’s hook, if you can call it that, is McConaughey’s ambulance chaser has so many questionable clients that he’s eschewed an office altogether, instead operating out of the backseat of his Lincoln. One of these cases proves more high profile than the rest: trust fund snot Louis Rolet (Ryan Phillippe) has been charged with beating a prostitute within an inch of her life. Louis claims his alleged attackee is setting him up. The snooping performed by Haller and his personal investigator (William H. Macy) supports his claim—initially, at least.
Credit where credit is due: minus Phillippe, The Lincoln Lawyer is aggressively well-cast, starting with McConaughey, an actor who excels at Southern-fried charm and righteous indignation, both of which he gets to whip out here. John Romano’s script allows plenty of chances for the cast—also including Marisa Tomei as Haller’s chummy ex, plus scraps for Michael Peña, Shea Whigham and Bryan Cranston—to just hang back and shoot the shit.
The actors pull their collective weight to atone for the occasionally corny direction (flashbacks begin with the camera panning horizontally or vertically, a shtick parodied to death long ago by shows like Spaced), wouldbe-bon mots (to a dickish cop: “When do you retire? Because I want to show up the next morning and kick your ass”) and a nasty case of multiple endings that might as well be dubbed “the Spielberg.” The desperate search for the perfect ending would be more understandable if the end didn’t nakedly pine for a franchise.