Monday, March 21, 2011

Lincoln Lawyer has twists, turns; a few surprises

Matthew McConaughey has jumped just a bit outside his comfort zone in The Lincoln Lawyer, returning to the courtroom for the first time since he hit gold with A Time to Kill. For years McConaughey has been phoning in performances, playing lovable, likable characters in forgettable romantic comedies.

This time around he remains likable as a street-smart lawyer who mostly works out of the back of his car. The movie has lots going for it; interesting story and well-written screenplay with more twists and turns than the Pacific Coast Highway. It also has just enough action to keep things real and moving along, and a killer cast – Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe and the always delightful William H. Macy.

Mick Haller – that would be the McConaughey character – stumbles into a case that, at first blush, seems to provide some easy money for just a little work. A young, good-looking rich guy has been arrested for beating up a hooker and he claims he’s being framed. With just a little effort Mick seems to have won the case before opposing attorneys even have a chance to chat.

What Mick and all of us munching away on our popcorn in the dark don't know is that the rich kid is a sociopath and Mick’s being setup in a most canny and sinister fashion. Just as things start turning sour, I realized The Lincoln Lawyer was actually making me think and pay attention to what was happening on the big screen. I love when that happens.

There’s little violence and absolutely no car chases in the film. The pop of the two gunshots in the movie play out much bigger than all the automatic gunfire on display in most action adventures because the story unfolds in such a plausible fashion.

For those very same reasons, the film only managed to pull in an estimated $13.4 million during its opening weekend. That’s not necessarily bad news for McConaughey. Those tepid receipts actually represent the top-grossing start for a McConaughey non-comedy-or-action movie since his breakout in A Time to Kill. Go figure!

More importantly, at least for me, Miss Wendy and the 100 or so others in the theater, The Lincoln Lawyer offered up an entertaining way to spend the first day of spring. Of course, give me a dark room and a bag of popcorn and I’ll watch just about anything.

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