Sunday, March 27, 2011

If Only This Lincoln Could Find Its Way Home

Don't get in trouble with the law.
That's the take away from The Lincoln Lawyer, the new Matthew McConaughey flick that tells the story of a crusty LA jailhouse lawyer who operates out of an old Lincoln, is estranged from his prosecutor wife and seems to attract trouble faster than you can say "justice."
It's not like this criminal defense lawyer doesn't have a home, of sorts. He's got a reasonably nice apartment (apparently in the Hollywood hills) but he doesn't spend much time there.
McConaughey assumes the kind of role that Paul Newman used to play  -- the just-this-side-of-cocky, irascible, sometimes difficult but strangely charming misfit who won't play by the traditional rules. He's the kind of guy that guys like to pal around with and women love to protect.
And indeed, Newman did take on a similar role in The Verdict.
But this ain't no Verdict.
Back to the law and not getting into trouble with it.
That's an all-too-obvious take away.
But so are many of the other "lessons" in this movie: Don't hang out with prostitutes. Don't needlessly taunt police or prosecutors. Don't lie. And don't use motorcycle gangs to do your bidding.
To be sure, there are some great lines in the script -- such as: "You've got more balls than a Chinese ping pong  match." 
And there are some entertaining and/or suspenseful moments. Plus, some of the characters are vividly etched. And its depiction of the criminal justice system is often (sadly) on target.
But the film eventually loses its way. Is it a thriller or a mystery yarn or an action flick or a courtroom drama or what? Is it updated film noir or is it just pumped-up noveau realism laced with its own notion of cool?
I won't give away the end of the movie but I can tell you this: Hollywood hates rich, successful, well-groomed white people.
Anyway, in addition to McConaughey the film stars Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, William H. Macy, John Leguizamo and Frances Fisher. Macy is superb, as always. And, his scenes with McConaughey bring out the best in both actors. Also, Laurence Mason is great as McConaughey's chauffeur, gofer and cofidante. And yes, McConaughey and Tomei are fun to watch together. They do know how to sizzle.
Plus, we get to see country music star Trace Adkins on the big screen.
But at just shy of two hours, the film twists and turns more than one of those winding roads that leads up to the Hollywood sign.
And when you finally get there you realize that you could have gotten a better picture with a shorter, more direct journey.

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