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Ten Word or Less review: McConaughey movie doesn’t require vomit bucket to watch.

I say blame J-Lo.  Matthew McConaughey had a decent career path as an actor until he worked with the annoying blight that is Jennifer Lopez.   2001’s The Wedding Planner marked McConaughey’s first foray into romantic comedy territory and it was shortly after this that everything went to shit for the guy.   The lure of cheap, crassly designed laughter, faux romance, and big paychecks, which relied strictly on his appeal to women, was too much for the tan one to turn away from.  Not long after Planner was a success the world was handed increasingly awful horror shows like Failure to Launch, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Fool’s Gold.   Even attempts to work outside this realm were losers: Two for the Money, We Are Marshall, Sahara.  He even wound up in a straight to video embarrassment.   After starting off by working with directors like Spielberg, Zemekis and Howard, McConaughey was slumming it with the likes of Adam Shankman.   This all brings us to his new vehicle The Lincoln Lawyer.   After a solid decade of junk McConaughey has found a vehicle for himself which doesn’t appear to be self indulgent garbage.  While it’s lightyears ahead of most of his output from the past decade Lawyer is no reinvention of the wheel, but it plays.

McConaughey’s is Mick Haller, a lawyer who doesn’t quality as ambulance chaser, nor is he regarded as an icon amongst his piers.   He’s a slick lawyer with an army of tricks up his sleeve and an strong desire to make bank.  Of course McConaughey would seem slick if he wore a suit made of sandpaper so we still can’t call Lincoln a stretch.   Mick’s got a reputation for getting very guilty people off the hook and getting well paid to do it.  One hustling afternoon he’s directed to a rich kid named Roulet (Ryan Phillippe) being held for attempted murder of a prostitute.  Roulet claims his innocence, telling Colter another man beat the girl and the two are out to blackmail him.  Of course things get more complicated, twist follows turn, turn follows twist.  A mandated surprise takes place late in the game.  You’ll probably leave stirred though not quite shaken.

What The Lincoln Lawyer really is is a b-grade thriller with an over talented supporting cast.   William H. Macy, John Leguizamo, Josh Lucas, Marisa Tomei, Bob Gunton, Bryan Cranston, etc. all get in on the ensemble legal thriller train and enjoy the ride.   If you were movie watching in the 90’s then this style of Grisham inspired thriller should be vaguely familiar to you, it’s where McConaughey started, and most of Lawyer will feel old hat.  But there’s nothing wrong with an old hat, especially when its comfy.  Lawyer is actually surprisingly spry in its first half.   It bounces along on a vibe of high energy, good editing and quick performance which is tricky to maintain, and it doesn’t, sadly.   Lawyer settles into the well worn trappings of courtroom thrillers and it doesn’t dislodge from there.   A good central character is predictably dispatched which also drains some of the momentum.  Director Brad Furman deserves some credit for taking what could easily have been a very rote experience and makes it hum as well as it does.  It’s not perfect, I don’t even think it makes sense when it’s over, but it gets the job done well enough.

The legal thriller doesn’t get taken for a spin nearly as much as it used to.  I think Grisham started writing about Christamas and pizza.  The genre has also faded in the wake of CGI spectacles, teen trash and kiddie flicks.  When done right this kind of film can provide a solid diversion at the movies, one worth a few bucks and a couple of hours of your time.  The Lincoln Lawyer follows the ropes too closely too closely to be considered great, but sometimes good is good enough.  Maybe we can start to take McConaughey serious again?


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