The Lincoln in “The Lincoln Lawyer” is not in Nebraska, and is not a beloved president. It’s an automobile. The license plate reads: NTGUILTY. That alone tips off who the main character is. He’s a sleazy, sleek Hollywood lawyer fresh off a suspended license to practice. Although we’re not told the reason for the suspension, it looks like part of his operating system. To Mick Haller (McConaughey) money talks and little else matters. He’s a criminal defense lawyer who cares only about the long green, and uses the Lincoln as his office. His driver, Earl, is a pearl of wisdom as the two of them careen about the seedier parts of L.A.
Mick is divorced from a charming, caring woman, neatly played by Marisa Tomei (who does not look her 47 years). She still cares for Mick, as well as their daughter. Indeed, the two of them intertwine very nicely.
The plot centers on a rich, youngish punk with a very rich nasty mama. The punk (Ryan Philippe) is accused of beating up a woman. The family, aided and abetted by the slimy family lawyer, is willing to pay Mick the big bucks to get Louis Roulet off without any punishment or record. For reasons that are a bit mysterious at first, but are very understandable later, the family retains Mick to get Louis off.
Mick’s investigator, played wonderfully by William H. Macy, discovers enough to make everything about the alleged beating very suspicious. Throw in a murder o two and the film has all the questions and ultimate answers of an old Dashiell Hammett plot. There are enough twists and turns, even involving some of Mick’s clients in a motorcycle gang, to keep anyone’s attention riveted.
The biggest mystery is how McConaughey suddenly springs to life in this role after a bunch of walk-throughs. He makes a very believable L.A. lawyer, working with society’s dregs, and not caring about right, wrong, or apparently ethics so long as he can bring in the bucks.
It all moves at a good pace with a solid cast throughout, including portrayers of L.A. detectives who have no love whatsoever for Mick.
Based on a character invented by Michael Connelly in a series of books, this is one of the more satisfying movies of the first part of this year.