Is' the Lincoln Lawyer' a Lawyer like Lincoln?

It is fair to say that Matthew McConaughhey has made his fair share of weak chick flicks.   This is definitely not one of them.  This movie is slick, involves a good courtroom drama, and has various twists and turns.  One could say that this is the best drama Matthew has ever done, and he is rightly getting some recognition for his acting in this film.   The film as well has an excellent supporting cast.   One could have wished for more of a part for the splendid Marisa Tomei.    William Macy and Josh Lucas are first rate in their roles as well.

But for an hour and 59 minutes the focus is squarely on Mickey Haller  (McConaughhey) a defense lawyer who works out of the back of his Lincoln Continental.   Americans frankly don’t understand the advocacy system of justice very well.  It is the job of lawyers to argue a case for their client or against the person that is being prosecuted.   They are advocates, rhetoricians,  not judges or juries.   The truth of the matter is to be sorted out by judges and juries.   Yes, lawyers must play by certain rules,  and Haller knows how to bend them more than a slinky bends.  But their job is in essence to do the best job they can to present the best case scenario possible for their client.    But what happens when you find out, in the middle of things that the client you are defending is not merely a snake but a murderer, and the attorney client privilege prevents Haller from disclosing all sorts of things he has learned about his client.

I liked almost everything about this movie.  It is in the end a movie about justice, and if you liked Law and Order, you will certainly like this film.  It has the intrigue and the chops to keep you interested throughout, and the writing is quite good.   I like the cinematography as well.  It is a well produced tight film with no real dead zones.   It may not make you like the American justice system any better, but you will likely leave the movie with a smile to see how a man survives by his wits,  even in a wicked world, knowing how to work the system until something good and righteous happens.   Sometimes the better guys  (who are not the perfect guys)  do in fact win.   And no there is not any gratuitous violence or sex or bad language in this movie, surprisingly enough.  The story and the acting are allowed to carry the movie along— and that is refreshing.  So, is the Lincoln Lawyer a lawyer like Lincoln?  Well, yes and no.  You remember the reputation of Honest Abe, and Haller is more like Slick Rick.  But in their concern and compassion for the least, the last, and the lost,  there is a resemblance to be sure.

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  • Oscar

    Ben, I have to be honest, I took my wife to see this movie solely because she likes Matthew McConaughhey, preferably without a shirt (but she’d never admit to that). But I WAS pleased by what I saw, like you said, a taut court room drama.

    Unfortunately I think that few will see this one till it reaches DVD. The target audience for Mr. M is usually a younger female group, but in the theater that I went to the audience looked like a night out for the Senior Center. Maybe it was the 7:30 show time, but I hope that the younger crowd (and here I mean the 30-40 age group) catches on because this was one of McConaughhey’s best performances.

  • Lin

    Good observations of the structure of the story. The movie is “slick” about the psychologically sick, revealing also its membership in a film industry that relentlessly pumps out movies and violence that just might further encourage more of it, and at the same time expose it. THIN LINE. However, too many people get by with the behavior in the film without a Lincoln Lawyer to help bring justice. The film does use words and scenes to give it the R-rating and attract more audiences. Despite its great storytelling, twists and such, the film brings more of the old focus on violence and evil, with some redemption, but still a lot of victims. A line in it is kind of telling relative to today’s society, uttered by the lawyer’s driver: “You’re nobody ’til somebody shoots you.” Sad comment on our society? A society in need of a Savior, one who could help rewrite the endings of so many lives–including the lives like some of real-life characters like these, and worse. And He has.

  • ben witherington

    Linda I think I mostly disagree with these comments. The line you quote in the movie was a joke, a wry bit of humor, and anyway the goal was to accurately depict life on the mean streets of L.A. without glorifying violence and crime, and it doesn’t do the latter. While I certainly agree our society needs a Savior, that is not what this movie is about. It’s about a lawyer who does actually have a concern for the deeper justice issues, and perhaps the most telling line in the movie is when Haller says that while the think he used to be most afraid of was an innocent client, that after learning about Roulet and who he really was, he reaized the thing he really was most afraid of was pure wickedness. This was at the heart of this movie, and was a good point.


  • Jeremiah

    Thanks for the review Ben, it’s nice to read something a little on the lighter side after a crazy week in the world of Christendom, what with the debate over Heaven, Hell and everything in between!
    I’d love to hear your remarks about Battle Los Angeles!

    Have a great week everyone!



  • ben witherington

    Jeremiah Battle L.A. is not ‘the bomb’ as my kids used to say, it is a dud.